Full text of "Rosabel"
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Digitized by VjOOQIC
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The Angler's Inn dozed in midsummer sunshine.
Along the white road which led on one hand to the
village, on the other to the river, nothing was to
be seen except a few fowls scratching in the dust.
The only sounds were sleepy sounds — the buzz
of insects, the droning of rustic voices through
th6 bar window, the fli^ of a tail and the stamp
of a hoof from one of the big waggon* team tethered
to the fence beside the inn. A water-wagtail dipped
into the horse-trough, and ran along the edge after
a butterfly ; a kitten skipped round from the stable-
yard in wanton lugh spirits, blundered into an old
setter curled on a sack, and bounded off again,
with her back arched, quicker than she came. The
odour of roses and new-mown hay mingled in wafts
with the smell of beer which exuded from the inu.
Suddenly a door swung open, and an unseen
woman's voice called briskly ;
' Rosabel ! Where are you, Rosabel ?'
* A girl, who had been reading on the be&c^ out-
side, looked up from her novelette, ^'^itized by Google
* Yes, aunt.'
' Mr. Smith wants a bit of bread and cheese, and
the cold 'am.*
' I'm coming,' said Rosabel.
The door banged.
Rosabel got up reluctantly. She was a sullen-
looking girl. With a better expression she would
have been pretty, almost beautiful. Her face was
round, her eyes were large and dark and thickly
lashed, her brown hair had a touch of red in it, her
complexion, deepened by the sun, was the colour
of a ripe peach. But she had no animation what-
ever, and the lack of it accentuated a tendency to
heaviness about the jaw, and drew down the comers
of her mouth, and deprived her eyes of the natural
lustre of youth. For the rest, she was vilely dressed
in an ill-fitting red silk blouse and a green skirt,
and her hair fell over her brow as though she would
not take the trouble to do it becomingly, or did not
She went indoors, not by the bar entrance, but
by the half-glass door marked ' Hotel.' Despite
this pretension the Angler's Inn was a small place.
On the ground-floor there was only the bar and
tiny bar-parlour, the coffee-room, and the kitchens,
and upstairs half a dozen spare bedrooms for visitors,
usually cyclists, or boating and fishing gentlemen
who could not afford, or did not care for, the smart
expensive hotel on the river-bank. Mr. and Mrs.
Collins attended to the bar with the help of a lad
and occasicmal assistance from Rosabel. It was
Rosabel's superior duty to wait upon the coffee-room.
She loathed it. To-day, in particular, her dis-
taste was active. She had been thinking about
herself all the morning. It was her birthday, and
self-consciousness, never sleeping in Rosabel, had
been quickened by a remorseless contemplation of
past, present, and future.
She collected the * bit of bread and cheese and
the cold *am * resentfully, and frowned on her way
back from the kitchen with a heavy tray which was
as nothing in her strong yoimg arms.
The coffee-room was rather a dismal little apart-
ment, pervaded at all hours by a subtly compounded
odour of spirits, cheese, and stale tobacco-smoke.
It looked on a damp comer of the garden, where
the sun never seemed to strike, and on hot days it
was stuffy, and on cold days it was cold.
Rosabel laid the doth. She did it neatly, and
made the food look as attractive as possible with
garnishing of fresh parsley, and a bowl of roses in
the midst, because she was a good housewife by
instinct, and could not help herself. Then she
took up her novelette again, and called through
the inner door of the bar on her way out :
* Your lunch is ready, Mr. Smith.*
*A11 right, my dear,' said the miller. *Many
'appy returns of the day to ye.'
I — 2
* Thank you,' said Rosabel.
She sat down in her old place on the bench outside.
Yes, it was her birthday, and she was nineteen.
She felt old. Even at thirteen she had felt old.
Not since the heedlessness of childhood had passed
had she been really young. This was because she
had a grievance, and the temperament to make
the most of it.
By birthright she was an anomaly ; there were
conflicting strains in her blood, and such * culture '
as can be supplied by a middle-class day-school in
the coimtry had accentuated them. She wanted
to be a lady, and she was niece to Mrs. Collins of
the Angler's Inn ; she was just educated enough
to suspect that she was an ignoramus without
possessing the knowledge necessary to rise above
her conditions and make her own life. She hated
the^upper classes because she envied them, and
they had discarded her ; she shrank with disgust
from the vulgarity of her father's people with whom
she lived, and brooded apart, resentful, reserved,
unhappy, alone. Nobody stopped to understand
her — there was too much to do, and to her aunt,
a bustling woman not given to analysis, Rosabel
was no more than a girl of peculiar temper — a
temper which was like to be her bane. If she
would hold aloof from other young people, and her
sullenness kept the boys ofi, she had only herself
to thank for it.
Rosabel turned over the leaves of the novelette.
Reading was the one thing she cared for, and she
spent all her spare money on fiction. At this
period her discrimination was feeble, and she
devoured works of art and rubbish impartially.
Perhaps she preferred the rubbish because it con-
tained more titles and scenes of splendour, and,
of course, she did not want to read about ordin-
ary people living ordinary workaday lives like
her own. It was an antidote to the unromantic
plebeian affairs of the Angler's Inn that she sought.
She was not such a fool as to think that things
really happened, and dukes and duchesses really
behaved, as they did in tales ; but then it had not
even occurred to her that fiction should be a pic-
torial representation in words, as it were, of life.
They were * stories.' Rosabel, embittered by ex-
perience, drew a hard-and-fast line between fact
and the fiction of her favourite penny paper.
His Grace — he was never odled anything else —
had just proposed to the governess. To come
there was the always piquant confoimding of
scornful oppressors. Rosabel, however, had lost
interest, temporarily, in these proceedings. There
were times when the reality of things claimed her,
when she was bound to think and think, with her
half-formed mind, striving to see the world as it
was, to pierce out the mystery of this ego, herself,
which ached with dim consciousness of its own
shortcomings and desires for impossible achieve-
ments, and still more impossible revenge. She had
wished — ^how many times ? — ^that she had never
been bom. Others had wished it, too, for that
matter. All the same, here she was, and here, it
seemed, she had to remain.
A horseman came trotting along the road— a
gentleman on a raking chestnut.
Rosabel looked up. She knew the mare, and the
rider. He dropped down at the inn door — a man
of seven or eight and twenty, big, fair, rather
fresh-coloured, a good-looking specimen of a sensual
type. His name was Braithwaite. He was
* county,* and owned Hallowdene, a large place
five miles off.
* 'Morning, Rosabel,' he said.
She rose without answering.
*A whisky-and-soda — ^long. You know how I
like it. Bring it out, there's a good girl.'
When she reappeared with the drink in one of
the best tumblers, the chestnut was tied to a tree,
and Maurice Braithwaite in possession of her
* Come and sit down,' he said in a friendly tone,
making room for her. * We're smart to-day! A
new blouse, Rosabel ?'
* Yes,' she said imeasily. * Don't you like it ?'
* It's beautiful. But you mustn't go near the
* Aunt gave it to me for a birthday present,* said
* Oh, it's your birthday ! That accounts for the
luiwonted splendour. I'd like to give you some-
thing, too.' His fingers slipped into his waistcoat-
pocket. * See here, Rosabel '
He was trying to put a sovereign into her hand.
Rosabel, still standing, shrank back, scarlet,
with her arms behind her.
* No, thank you, Mr. Braithwaite !'
* Why not ?' he asked.
* I'm much obliged to you, but I couldn't take it.
I didn't mean that when I mentioned my birthday.'
* I know. Don't be a fool !*
She shook her head again, and Braithwaite
shrugged his shoulders, looking annoyed, and
repocketed the money.
There was a moment's silence. His moustache
dipped into the whisky-and-soda. He lit a cigar.
Rosabel glanced at the door.
* Anyhow, you can stay and talk to me for five
minutes ! Come along.'
She accepted his invitation to sit down this time,
although reluctantly, and he smiled again.
* And how old are you ?'
* Nineteen,' she said.
* I wonder if you'll ever realize what a deuced
pretty little girl you are !'
Rosabel locked her hands in her lap.
* I know what I'm like,' she said discontentedly,
' But you don't know how to have a good time,'
He was one of those men who live to amuse
themselves, and only regard women in one way.
He had often noticed Rosabel, and made advances,
which she had either not seen or pretended not to
see. She began to pique him. After all, who was
she ? He played the game mechanically as a
swimmer strikes out when dropped into deep water.
The habit of pursuit was natural to his species.
* I have never had a good time,' said Rosabel,
* and I don't suppose I ever shall.'
* Haven't you got a sweetheart ?'
* No,' she said, frowning at her knuckles.
* Why ? Haven't the lads hereabouts any eyes ?'
' I don't care for men of that sort — farmers, and
tradespeople, and servants.'
' You want a gentleman, eh ? You are ambitious.
And yet you are always snubbing me !'
* You ?' she queried.
* You must know by this time that I am desper-
ately in love with you !'
' Please don't talk nonsense,' said Rosabel
angrily, turning red again. ' You are a married man.
I'm not such a fool. You are only laughing at me.'
* I'm not !' He leaned over her. His arm,
which had been resting on the back of the seat,
suddenly pressed her waist. *Give me a kiss,
* Certainly not, Mr. Braithwaite !*
* There's nobody in sight !' he said.
She thrust him away, and sprang to her feet.
* How dare you !*
* Well, you are a little cat !' he said.
Rosabel ran into the house, and upstairs to her
room, where she sank down and began to cry with
Braithwaite, after a moment's chagrin, smiled
the wrong side of his mouth, finished his drink, and
went into the bar to pay for it.
' Gives herself too many airs,' he muttered as
he rode away. * Cheek ! She ought to be flattered
that I take any notice of her.'
That afternoon an electric launch, with a dozen
ladies and gentlemen on board, stopped at the
Three Fishers Hotel. It was a party of smart
people who were in the habit of regarding them-
selves as the very smartest in London. Not in the
ordinary sense used by outsiders, be it understood,
for there was not a single title among them. But
they were the choice spirits who wrote, and acted,
and painted, and criticised, and talked — above all
talked, chiefly about themselves.
They scattered over the little hotel and the
* Remember,' said Mrs. Fairboume aloud, * that
we are all to reunite here at 4.30 for tea.'
* And it's 3.15 now,' added Alec Aylmer, consult-
ing his watch.
Of course he was beside her, and they strolled
away together. It was his party, although she
had asked the guests, and their friendship had
reached the stage when tactful people invited them
together and got out of their way.
' Shall we go for a walk through the village ?' he
' I don't mind/ she replied.
She was most unsuitably dressed for a country
road, in a long muslin dress elaborately inlet with
lace, a picture hat, and fluffy parasol. But she
looked charming. He thought so, and she knew
it. A fair woman, she was, of medium height,
with a white pointed face, plaintive eyes, a prac-
tised smile. Fairboume had been nothing more
elevated than a stockbroker, but he had left her
well off. Her little house in Great Cimiberland
Place himimed with celebrities. She did nothing
herself ; but to know people who did, to be in the
* inner ring,* was her passion. She lost a great deal
of money at bridge.
Aylmer did nothing — ^with somewhat less elabora-
tion. He loimged, and looked on — a sceptic without
enthusiasms. But she drew him, perhaps with
her tongue ; really, she talked very well, and when
a woman of position looks twice at a man, he is apt
to pause and look back at her. He supposed her
to be about two-and-thirty, his own age ; as a
matter of fact she was thirty-seven, but nobody
would have guessed it.
She picked up her skirts daintily, and sought the
shady side of the way.
* A perfect day,' she said. * How good of you to
ask us !'
* It is very pleasant,* he agreed.
* Pretty country, the ripple of water in one's
ears, an excellent lunch, plenty of ice, and good
company I What more can one want in this world ?'
' A game of bridge at my chambers, and a little
supper to wind up the evening I*
' What a happy thought !' she said. * But I
shall be so sleepy and stupid after a day in the open
air, and I shall lose, and I really can't afford to lose
' How do you stand ?* he inquired.
' Oh, I daren't calculate, I gave up keeping an
account last month/
* As bad as that !'
' Even worse.'
He looked at her under his lids with the tentative
humour of the man of tact who is going to venture
much. Women found Aylmer fascinating. He
was handsome, with very fine gray eyes, a straight
nose, and a clean mouth. At Oxford he had shown
a great deal of promise, but an income of three
thousand a year had nipped it in the bud. So
he lived comfortably in chambers in Piccadilly,
travelled when he felt inclined, dined simply,
smoked moderately, hunted in the season, and —
so far — had evaded matrimony. Was the net over
him at last ?
* May I put you straight ?'
' It*s really very sweet of you,' said Mrs. Fair-
bourne. * But quite impossible I My dear fellow,
just think !*
* A loan,' he said, with ingratiating sweetness,
* and you shall pay when you like I A mere
* Oh, if you put it like that !' she said.
' How much ?' He unscrewed the gold pencil
on his watch-chain, and pulled down his cuff for a
* Twelve himdred,' she said faintly. * I'll live
on bread and water till I've paid you ! I really am
in a tight comer. My income is locked up, you
know. Fortunately, there is always Aunt Eliza.'
* Who is she ?'
* Aunt Eliza Dudgeon of Torquay. Can't you
see her ? She disapproves of me, and we never
meet ; but she is going to leave me fifty thousand
pounds, because she has nobody else. I suppose
she can't live for ever. She is a maiden of sixty-
It was the habit of this particular smart set to
be flippant on all matters, sacred and profane.
And Aylmer was so used to hearing men and
women scoff at religion, and sentiment, and the
natural ties of kindred and affection — at every-
thing, in fact, which was nature, not art— that it
did not even strike him that Mrs. Fairboume had
spoken of her aged relative with a lack of respect
and good feeling which betokened a lack qi heart.
A naturally good palate may become perverted by
unwholesome condiments. Ordinary pepper, if
used too frequently, loses effect, and only cayenne
and chillies can tickle the vitiated tongue. Thus
suggestive jokes crop up, and questionable in-
nuendoes malice, cynicism, and the desire to shine
at anyone's expense.
But Aylmer, blunted by habit, smiled without a
qualm, apparently quite satisfied with the perfect
gown, the exquisite manner, the refined voice and
face, which was all of a woman that there was
* You mustn't worry at all,* he said. ' The money
is lying at the bank. Glad to find a use for it.'
* Bloated millionaire !'
* No. You know the figure of my income,' he
said simply. * I've no vices, that is all.'
* And I have, you mean ?'
* You shall have the cheque to-morrow.'
* Go on !' she said. * You haven't finished ! I
know you are d5dng to improve the occasion !'
* Please don't play bridge I'
' But it's so old-fashioned to be eccentric. Every-
body is normal nowadays.'
He was silent.
* I'll draw the line at penny points,' she said.
* What ! not satisfied with that V
* Of course, you will do exactly as you like, my
dear lady ! Who am I to presume '
* Why,* she asked, * don't you like me to play at
* Because there are some women who shouldn't.'
* You mean that I lose my head !' She was
* It is a pity— when the head is so charming !'
She gave him a melting glance. Goodness
knows what might have happened if an imexpected
diversion had not occurred.
* Cows !' shrieked Mrs. Fairboume. * Save me !'
There were six, calves with them, coming down
the road in charge of a whistling urchin.
' I think,' said Aylmer, * that the peril may be
faced with presence of mind. But if you prefer to
retreat, here is a gate !'
They leaned over it, laughing, on the inside. No
doubt she had exaggerated her alarm for the sake
of clutching his arm.
* I thought you were brought up in the country ?'
' So I was. But so long ago that I have forgotten
all about it ! Now why did I say that ? You will
begin to wonder how old I am. I meant, of course,
that I alwa5rs hated cows.'
* If women were half as harmless I'
* It doesn't seem to me that you have found them
very dangerous — ^yet !'
Was she trying to draw him on a little too quickly ?
Perhaps his mind was not quite made up, or he
preferred, if it were, to choose his own time. He
only smiled at her.
* I have a cool head.*
* A cold heart, you mean !' she cried angrily*
* Allow me to open the gate !*
She moved too widely. A nail caught the musUn
dress. There was a rip, and half a yard of lace friU
trailed the ground.
^ Oh, look at that !' she wailed.
*What a misfortune! But there is an inn a
little further on. We'll get it mended for you.*
Thus it happened that Rosabel, wrapped in
gloomy meditation on the edge of her bed, was
presently disturbed by a breathless kitchenmaid.
* Please, miss, youVe wanted downstairs.*
Rosabel sponged her eyes briefly, and descended
with remnants of the storm still lingering in them.
* How you do get out of the way, Rosabel !* said
Mrs. Collins sharply. * You left Mr. Braithwaite
to bring in his own tumbler, and I have to send all
over the place after you when customers come. If
it wasn't your birthday Fd be downright cross.
Hurry I There's a lady in the best bedroom
wanting a needle and cotton — white.*
Rosabel never * answered back.' She only lowered
her black lashes sullenly, and her mouth assumed a
more decided pout. She took the needle and cotton
to the best bedroom.
The apparition which met her view as she opened
Digitized by VjOOQIC
the door made the girl pause. Here was a lady
indeed, not a lady merely in the cathoUc spirit of
her aimt. The faultless costume, the perfectly-
dressed hair, the white face with the faintly-arched,
supercilious brows and thin red lips, the subtle
perfume which clung about her, went to Rosabel's
heart like a knife-thrust. She had never heard
the word chic, but she knew that this woman
was perfectly turned out from her crown to her
heels, and walked the ways of luxury in another
Rosabel saw before her, in fact, an ideal repre-
sentative of that class which ever inspired her with
the antagonism of grudging admiration, of consum-
ing envy, of class resentment, with the jealousy of
the base-bom for the heir. The girl in her vulgar
clothes, intelligent enough to know how much
she lacked, perceived the gulf between herself
and this woman, and realization of those deficiencies
which were not her own fault filled her with mingled
rage and despair.
Her firm sulky mouth drew in at the comers,
and she frowned, perhaps unconsciously, at Mrs.
* Here is the needle and thread. Can I do any-
She always spoke correctly, and her country
breeding had preserved her from a Cockney accent.
On this occasion she took extra pains to enunciate
well. But Mrs. Fairboume did not notice her
at all. A young person was to her an automaton
to make itself useful. A penchant for the lower
classes was not one of her fads. In fact, they dis-
gusted her when she thought about them at all.
She made an art of rel&nement. But, of course,
she was always polite, and spoke civilly to the
girl of the inn,
* I wonder if you could mend this flounce ? I
caught it on a nail. I hate stooping.*
* I'll try,' said Rosabel.
* You need not be very neat,' said Mrs. Fairboume.
* Anyhow will do till I get home, as long as I don't
fall over it.'
The girl threaded her needle, went down on her
knees, and began to sew.
Mrs. Fairboume's eyes roamed, as she stood,
over the rose-bud wall-paper, the old-fashioned
crochet quilt and chintz bed-curtains, the square
window sunk rather deeply in the wall — ^the Angler's
Inn was an old house—and the green glass orna-
ments on the mantelpiece. It was very dean,
rather countrified, and hideous.
She was amused. What taste these people
Then her attenticm was attracted by the insuffer-
able combination of crude red and green worn
by the girl crouching beside her, and she smiled.
Yes, what taste ! She recalled an effective remark
she had made at dinner the other night : ' The
Anglo-Saxons are the least picturesque of all
races on earth.' It was not original, but it had
pleased her at the time ; a good memory will often
take the place of wit* Now, if this girl were properly
dressed. . . , She had quite a nice-shaped head,
and her red-brown hair was pretty and plentifuL
Her complexion and her features, too
A twinge passed across Mrs. Fairboume's face.
She inhaled a sibilant breath through her teeth,
and looked harder at RosabeL A resemblance
had struck her, a startling resemblance. It was
as though a cupboard door had opened suddenly
disclosing a skeleton which had been hidden so
long that she had almost forgotten it. Yet it
might be only her imagination which saw this grim
relic of the past.
The girFs name would settle the matter one way
or the other if she dared to ask it. But she would
not encourage herself in this flight of fancy. The
likeness was an accident, no doubt. Downstairs
Aylmer was waiting for her. He was real, the
launch party was real, all the pleasant accessories
of her life to-day were real — why permit an evil
dream to linger in the sunshine ?
But still she looked at the girl's face, and the
question she had tried to stifle came out at last.
* Are you the landlady's daughter ?' Digitized by Google
' No, her niece/ repHed Rosabel, glancing up*
* You remind me of a — a servant I had once,'
said Mrs. Fairboume. * Perhaps you are a younger
sister. What is your name ?'
' Rosabel Carpenter,' replied the girl. She was
offended at the suggestion, and bit off a thread
with a vicious jerk.
* Rosabel Carpenter I* repeated Mrs. Fairboume
faintly. ' Carpenter I N — no, the name isn't the
same. That will do. You have mended my dress
nicely. Thank you.'
She put half a crown in Rosabel's hand.
Aylmer was waiting in the coffee-room. When
Mrs. Fairbourae stood in the doorway, he started.
* Good God ! what is the matter ?*
She was white to the lips.
*This place is so stuffy!* she gasped. *Take
* Have some brandy !*
* No.' Her gloved hand sought his sympathetic
arm. * I shall be all right. Only take me away.'
Nevertheless, she could scarcely see the road she
trod on, and he led a mere doll towards the
When she had recovered a little, an impulse
moved her to confide in him. If she were going
to marry him — and her mind was made up, at any
rate — it would not be safe to keep a secret. Besides,
what she had to tell him could never be a real
secret ; too many people knew it.
' Something upset me,' she said. * How
strangely things happen f Why should chance
have taken me to that particular inn ?'
*Then there is something the matter!' he ex-
claimed, looking at her.
* Yes. Oh, I have had a shock ! Don't be
alarmed. I am not going to faint now. I must
He was obviously waiting, with expectation on
tiptoe. Her hints were m5^terious enough.
* I suppose you know,' she said at last, * that I
have been married twice ?'
* I heard something about an early marriage.'
* I was seventeen, and such a little fool. You
know what girls are at that age.'
* Don't smile. It was a tragedy. Do you know
any more ?'
* You dispensed with your father's consent,
didn't you ?'
' Go on.'
* My information is exhausted.'
*Then people are more charitable than I sup-
posed,' she said, with a slight laugh, *or their
memories are shorter. I ran away with my
* Good Lord, Amy !'
He did not notice, in his pardonable agitation,
that he had called her by her name, but she did,
and her soul was balmed.
' Yes, that was it. I used to go out riding with
him. It was down in Devonshire, and deadly — ^not
a man in the place. He was remarkably hand-
some. ... Do remember my age I*
' Have I said a word ?'
* You are sneering in your sleeve !'
*0n my honour!' He looked at her quite
' I think I was disillusioned in a week,' she con-
tinued. ' Of course, he was — a groom. We had
no money, too. I believe he was fond of me, but
he had been reckoning on my father for supplies,
and papa simply washed his hands of us. A year
of horrors followed. We lived in two rooms in a
dirty lodging-house on the proceeds of the jewellery
and clothes I had brought away with me. It
served me right, no doubt, but I want your sym-
* You have it, dear lady.'
* At the end of the year William — that was his
name— H:aught a chill and died of pneumonia. I
had not looked for such a happy release. I tele-
graphed instantly to papa, and he came by return,
and took me home. Oh, the luxury of cleanliness,
refinement, and decent cooking again !'
' So the story ended happily ?'
She had been recovering more and more imder the
sun of his sympathy, but at this moment a relapse
set in. She really looked as if she were going to
'Unfortunately, it did not end there. You
saw that girl at the inn — the girl they called
' She is William's daughter.*
* William's daughter ?'
* And mine,' said Mrs. Fairboume faintly.
* The devil !' ejaculated Aylmer. He stared.
The informa,tion was enough to startle a more
' Her re^mblance to him struck me at once,'
she pursued. ' I asked her name. . . . What an
* But how is it that she — that you . . . Why
didn't you know ?'
* Papa wouldn't let me keep her. He wanted to
cut the whole connection — ^naturally. It was the
condition he made on taking me home. Was I
likely to object ? The infant was given to William's
sister, a respectable young married woman without
children of her own. At the time the husband was
a butler, I believe. They were to have a hundred
a year, and hold their tongues. The lawyers pay
it to this day. I have never had any communica-
tion with the people direct. The following year I
married George Fairboume.'
' He knew ?'
* Papa explained. George didn't care. He was
in love. Besides, what did it matter ? It was aU
* It was all over/ repeated Aylmer mechanically.
' I must say papa managed well. Very little talk
reached London. I wasn't known then, you see.
People met me as Mrs. Fairboume, and» of course,
I never mentioned anjrthing unpleasant.'
'And the girl at the inn is your daughter!'
Curiosity moved him. ' Did you say anything to
* What could I say ? I was never so shocked in
my life. And we were having such a pleasant day !
It was all your fault. You took me there I You
won't tell anybody ?'
* Of course not.'
* I trust you^ she said.
She leaned towards him with delicate flattery of
voice and eyes, but Aylmer was thinking.
*So even now,' he said, trying to grasp the
stupendous fact, * she doesn't know who you are ?'
* Good gracious, no I' cried Mrs. Fairboiune.
* Did you expect me to reveal m5^elf after the
manner of the long-lost parent of melodrama ?
She mended my dress, and I gave her half a
' Half a crown !' he exclaimed, in huge delight.
* Half a crown ! How extravagant you are ! I
always told you that you tipped too highly. That
is why you cannot afford to lose at bridge. A
shilling was the price !'
* Perhaps so,' she said. * But I suppose I felt
/ 26 ROSABEL
y that I ought to do something special . . . under
/ the circumstances, you know/
Aylmer shouted with laughter.
Mrs. Fairboume echoed him, from a mere syco-
phantic desire to please- She was not really amused.
The encounter had been painful in the extreme. It
would take her several days to recover from it.
Although no instinct had whispered the amazing
truth to Rosabel, she felt that something had hap-
pened. It was seldom that she came into contact
with smart ladies, although she saw many of them
in the distance on Simdays when she walked along
the tow-path to the lock, and she had taken par-
ticular notice of every point of Mrs. Fairboume*s
manner and attire.
When she was free at last to meditate upon the
experiences of her birthday — ^that anniversary of a
date which her mother had forgotten — she stared
at the reflection in her small toilet-glass with tragic
' I don't believe the blouse is really nice,* she
thought. * Perhaps it's aU wrong, and one oughtn't
to wear red and green together ?' She grew hot
and anxious. ' Mr. Braithwaite laughed, although
he said he liked it. Perhaps he knew it was wrong.
I wonder what she thought of it ?'
It was terrible to imagine that these fine people had
been amused at her. Sensitiveness to ridicule was
almost a disease with the girl. She could have for-
given someone who struck her sooner than someone
who laughed at her. She regretted now that she
had put on the new red blouse instead of her
usual white cotton dress. At any rate, there
was nothing remarkable about a white cotton
* She said I resembled a servant she had once,'
remembered Rosabel. 'Then she must have
thought I looked common I'
And if she were common now, what would she be
when she was older ? Probably she would grow
like her aunt — stout and florid, with a loud voice,
a hearty laugh, and a painful outspokenness.
What else could she expect ? She was a waitress
at an inn, the associate of vulgar people, one of
them — Si mark for the impertinence of every man
who came along. A black depression settled upon
her. Never had her shortcomings seemed so many
and so insurmountable. In her heart of hearts she
had cherished the idea that she was better than her
neighbours. Her continual anxious search for
some sign of the superiority due to her birth had
found her a little solace. Now all hope was swept
away. She saw herself as an ignorant, ill-bred
village girl beside this elegant woman of the world.
And she ought to have been something different.
She was wronged. She had been robbed of the
advantages and opportimities her mother's daughter
should have received, which it should have been her
mother's pleasure to give her.
Many times she had sununed up her grievances,
but never had the total impressed her so deeply.
She was filled with a passionate, burning hatred of
the woman who had abandoned her. Perhaps one
day, she did not know how, she would be revenged.
If sheiiad been bom two centuries earlier, she would
have trafficked with the nearest witch, and brought
a fearful retribution upon her mother's head by
burning her waxen image in the kitchen fire.
The smell of fried onions reached her in her little
bedroom under the roof. It was supper-time. She
was not hungry, but they would call her if she did
not go down.
She descended slowly. A loneliness of the spirit
had seized her. She felt an alien in the house of her
aunt, where she had lived aU her Ufe.
There was a steak — the raison i^Hre of the onions
—on the supper-table in the parlour, and plenty
of fried potatoes, and pale ale. The Angler's
Inn was a good concern, and the Collinses lived
Collins, the retired butler, a tall, stout, smug-
faced man not unlike his wife, had just begun to
serve out. Mrs. Collins was cutting bread.
* How's your appetite, Rosabel ?' he asked.
* I don't want any meat, thank you, uncle,'
repUed the girl.
* What's that ?' exclaimed her aunt. * Nonsense,
Rosabel ! You eat your supper properly.*
* I am gomg to have some bread and cheese.'
* I know what it is,' said Collins facetiously.
* She*s afraid of losing her figure if she eats enough,
eh, Rosabel ?*
Rosabel disdained to reply,
" No, it*s the onions/ said Mrs. Collins, with a
short laugh. ' She Ukes them really, but she pre-
tends she don't because they ain't genteel. I
know the young miss V
This was such a shrewd definition of her attitude
that Rosabel scowled. There is nothing as annoy-
ing, at times, as the truth.
' Don't you put on so many airs, Rosabel,' added
Mrs, Collins, irritated in her turn by the girl's
silence. ' Nobody notices you, so you might as
well be natural. Sulkiness and conceit never got
a girl a good husband yet, and you'll be left on the
shelf if you don't mend your ways.'
Rosabel raised fierce eyes under lowering brows.
* I wish you'd let me alone, aunt !'
' You've been cross all day,' replied Mrs. Collins
sharply. * Bless the girl 1 what's the matter with
her ? You had presents^ and your favourite pudding
for dinner, and a glass of champagne— everything
of the best, and no expense spared to give you a
happy birthday — and yet you must go about with
a face like a wet week, so grumpy that you can*t be
spoken to. Such ingratitude !'
* I'm not grumpy/ cried the girl with sudden
She pushed her chair back stormily, and rose from
* Yes, go to bed I It*s the best thing you can do.
I don't want any sour faces near me.*
* There, there, wife I' said Collins, a peace-loving
man. * It's the girl's birthday. We all have our
* If she were a couple of years younger, I'd box
her ears,' declared his wife, red in the face.
Rosabel went out, banging the door, and retreated
to her own room, and flung herself on the bed, and
wept — ^for the second time on this eventful day.
* I wasn't cross !' she sobbed. * No, I wasn't.
They don't understand.'
Amy Faxrbourne's stock of romance had been
exhausted for many years by her early love afEair
with the unpossible William. She had made
hysterical vows at the time, wept copiously, and
emerged from the briefest retirement decency
allowed with crape on her gown — she barred the
widow's cap, which was really too much — ^and the
most sensible of sentiments towards men. In
future she was going to be practical. So she
married Fairboume, by her father's advice, for
money, and if, after all, he had not left her as well
off as she had hoped, she could afford most of the
luxuries of life in moderation, and the episode of
William was buried under a cheap headstone at
In the folly of her girlhood she had thrown
herself away, in the materialism of maturity she
had sold herself ; but she had not yet given her-
self, which was quite another matter. It was
reserved for the verge of middle age, when a
woman's passions are often keener than in youth,
to bring her Alec Aylmer and the love of her
If she had asked no more of fate at this date than
an agreeable companion with a suflScient income,
she would have b^en glad enough to marry him.
His appearance, his wit, his manners, charmed her
equally. But she was in love even to the degree of
making sacrifices had sacrifices been required.
Thank God, he was eminently desirable — ^that was
part of his attraction. The day of William had
long gone by.
Aylmer, for his part, had lounged into the posi-
tion of habitu6 at Great Cumberland Place through
laziness as much as inclination. She kept on asking
him, so he kept on going. Besides, she amused him,
and it is natural to the average man to like a woman
who is not ashamed of showing a decided preference
for his society. And he met amusing people at her
How the idea of marrying her had entered his
head, he scarcely knew himself. It had come
without any shock of discovery. Had anyone
asked him if he were in love, he would have thought
a moment, probably, and answered no. Yet he
was always glad to be with her. She had a great
deal of tact, and could amuse a dinner-table, and
he was growing tired of living alone.
But he was in no hurry, and sometimes his dalli-
ance irritated her. Yesterday, for instance, he had
Digitized by VjOOQIC
had several good opportunities of approaching the
point. She had let him lend her money, and had
taken a solitary walk with him, and in the twilight
on the river going home he might have whispered
a great many things instead of discoursing aloud on
politics. For once he had bored her. She was
growing impatient. There was the question of
She was thinking it out in bed, with a vertical
line between her brows, on the morning after the
If she did not marry Aylmer soon, she would have
to pay him, and her position was worse than she
had admitted. It was impossible to live on nothing
in Great Cumberland Place and keep up with an
extravagant set. At the best of times she found it
difficult enough not to have to go without things
she wanted on two thousand a year. The addition
of Aylmer's three thousand would make a OMn-
fortaUe income. And she would not be obliged
to liquidate her debt — ^a great consideration.
* I must get him up to the mark this week,* she
told herself. * Of course, he is fond of me.*
She paused after uttering this statement aloud,
and repeated it with an air of aggressimi, as though
scmieone had contradicted her. It would have been
more flattering to her vanity, as a matter of fact,
if he had shown some eagerness. He must not feel
too sure. Perhaps a flirtation in another quarter
would be judicious.
Digitized by VjOOQIC
There was a little pUe of letters l3ang beside her
cup of tea, and she began to open them. Three
invitations, a bill, a note from a partictdar friend,
and a letter bearing the postmark of Torquay.
* Aunt Eliza,' she murmured.
The writing was not Aunt Eliza's, but Miss
Dudgeon never wrote her own letters. She dic-
tated to a companion.
Mrs. Fairboume opened the envelope, anticipat-
ing a request to match a pattern of impossible
'Dear Mrs. Fairbourne,
* I am grieved to inform you that your aimt,
Miss Eliza Dudgeon, died suddenly at 4.30 p.m. I
am writing by the same post to the lawyers. If
you intend to come down, perhaps you will kindly
send me a wire.
* Yours faithfully,
The letter was of yesterday's date.
Mrs. Fairboume turned pale. The news of death,
anyone's death, is always a shock.
Then she grew pink. It would be convenient,
at this moment, to inherit fifty thousand pounds.
Golden visions appeared to her. She began to
feel ' good.' All sorts of things that she wanted
badly, and many that it would be nice to have,
recurred to her mind. She would have an electric
Digitized by VjOOQIC
brougham, which is so much more useful than a
pair of horses to a woman who goes out a great
deal, and refurnish the boudoir. And she would
not go down to Torquay. What was the use of
depressing herself needlessly ? The lawyers could
attend to the funeral arrangements. She could do
no good whatever if she went.
Having mapped out her plans with her usual
decision, she rose at once and wrote a polite reply
to Miss Bateman's letter, and another to the soli-
citors who had charge of Miss Dudgeon's affairs.
Then she went out to order mourning. Fortunately,
she looked well in black, and there would be no
necessity to have crape for an aunt whom nobody
Alighting from her victoria at the door of a
famous 'mourning' house in Regent Street, she
encountered Alec Aylmer.
* You have recovered ?' he inquired.
* Recovered ?' she repeated vaguely. * Oh yes.*
She had really forgotten for the moment what had
happened yesterday. * I have had news this
morning,' she added, * which has driven every-
thing else into the background. Aimt Eliza is
* Indeed. I condole with you,' he said conven-
* I am just going to Kay's to order clothes,' she
said. ' I think mourning is a relic of barbarismi
Digitized by VjOOQIC
but one must respect the prejudices of an aunt who
leaves fifty thousand pounds.*
* Then I am to congratulate as well as to condole ?*
* I haven't heard about the will yet,' she answered,
' but I am quite easy. There are people who never
dream of leaving their money out of " the family,"
and she was one of them. I am the only relative
she had in the world.'
* Well, fifty thousand pounds is a comfortable sum.'
It would be very comfortable. She was none the
less resolved to marry the urbane gentleman who
stood talking to her on the pavement. He looked
very handsome this morning, quite someone to be
proud of, and when their eyes met by chance her
heart beat like a girl's.
* I shall cancel my engagements for a week or
two,' she said, *but that won't prevent my being
at home to my best friends. Are you engaged for
this evening ?'
' Unfortunately, yes.'
' Then limch to-morrow ?'
They parted with a tender glance on the woman's
part, and a responsive pressure of the hand on the
* He is a dear fellow,' she murmured. * Really, I
like him very much.'
If she were not already in love she would have
been in love this morning. Fifty thousand pounds
made her heart so soft.
All the afternoon she was occupied with dress-
makers and milliners. She dined alone. By the
last post came a letter from the solicitors, as she had
expected ; but it was registered, and contained an
enclosure, which she had not expected.
* Dear Madam,
*We have the honour to inform you that
the late Miss Eliza Dudgeon, by her last will, has
bequeathed to you, on certain conditions, a life
interest in her entire estate, valued roughly at
fifty-one thousand pounds. Our junior partner,
Mr. Gell, will be pleased to see you either here or
at your own address, as you may appoint, to read
the will to you and receive your instructions.
* Our senior partner, Mr. Geary, as executor of
Miss Eliza Dudgeon, has despatched a representa-
tive to Torquay to wind up her affairs and make
the necessary arrangements for the funeral, which
will be conununicated to you in due course.
* Meanwhile, we beg to forward you the enclosed
packet, placed in our hands some months ago by
Miss Eliza Dudgeon, with instructions that it
should b^ delivered to you at her death.
* Awaiting your reply,
*We remain, madam,
* Yours faithfully,
* Geary and Gell.'
A pensive expression dawned on Mrs. Fairboume's
face. It ended with a frown.
* A life interest !* she repeated. * Only a life
interest ! Conditions P.
She became suddenly afraid of the enclosure,
which was sealed and addressed in a shaky hand,
as though the old woman had written it herself.
The touch of drama supplied by this message from
the grave affected her unpleasantly. Aimt Eliza
had never had anything agreeable to say to her in
her life. Why had she written ?
* Conditions/ murmured Mrs. Fairboume again —
* conditions !'
A queer sensation came over her, as sometimes
happened when a thimderstorm was brewing. She
felt certain that she would not like what she was
about to read. But it was useless to postpone the
inevitable. She was curious, too. Nevertheless,
before breaking the seal, she walked to the window,
and threw it open wider to the soft breaths of ait
which found their way down the street from the Park.
' My dear Amy,' she read,
' We have never liked each other. Let that
pass. I am an old woman ; you still call yourself
a young one, I understand. You think I am a
dowd ; what I think of you is stated below. Never-
theless, I am concerned for your soul. If I had
nothing to leave, I should not waste time in re-
iterating my opinion of your behaviour concerning
a matter upon which we have always disagreed.
But as the testatrix of fifty thousand pounds I can
purchase your attention, at least.
* It is my request that you should publicly
acknowledge your daughter bom in lawful wedlock,
take her to live with you until she marries, and try
to repair your disgraceful neglect of her in the past.
As reward, I leave you the life interest of my
estate, the capital to devolve upon her at your
death. If you refuse to perform this obvious duty,
which only false pride, egotism, and heartless in-
difference to the most ordinary maternal instinct
could have induced you to disregard so long, Rosabel
will inherit my estate at once, and you will be left
out. It is for you to choose.
* Your affectionate aimt,
* Eliza Dudgeon.*
For fully half a minute Mrs. Fairboume did not
stir. The shock was so great that she was stunned.
Then she crushed the letter in her hands, with a
hissing soimd such as a cat makes when it spits. If
Aylmer had seen her at this moment, he would not
have thought her charming. The true woman,
greedy, selfish, venomous, glittered in her eyes.
* The old beast !* she exclaimed. * The old devil !
She has done it on purpose to spite me. My sow/,
She rose, inhaling a deep breath of passion. She
saw nothing but malice in Miss Dudgeon's testa-
ment. As the sour old maid could not take her
money with her, she had done her best to make her
heir smart for it.
* If the girl were a baby still it wouldn't matter,'
mused Mrs, Fairboume, clawing at her handker-
chief in hysterical rage till the hem gave way. * But
a grown woman — a woman looking full her age and
more . . . after all these years t'
She closed her eyes, and recalled the image of
Rosabel at the inn — Rosabel, who had mended her
gown. And this insane old woman actually pro-
posed that she should take up this girl, reeking of
beer, and present her, without explanation, to the
world of art and letters !
* It is a plot for a farce— or a tragedy,' she moaned.
* Good God ! what is one to do ?'
Fifty thousand pounds was a lot of money. If
only a small sum had been at stake, she would have
let it go, hard up as she was, and trusted to Aylmer
to come to the rescue.
Fifty thousand pounds i
She cried by-and-by. She had not done such a
weak thing for years, but the situation was beyond
her. Her only hope was for an evasion of some
She sent for Aylmer in the morning. Her clever-
ness was quite aware that a man hkes to be appealed
to for advice by the woman for whom he has a
His prompt arrival fomid her white-faced and
plaintive after a sleepless night.
* What do you think of me,* she asked, * for bother-
ing you ? But I am worried to death, and I have
no man belonging to me.'
* You know/ he said, * how deUghted I am to
serve you in any way. What has gone wrong ?*
* My expectations,' she said. * I always knew
that Aunt Eliza was an old cat, but she has served
me the most exasperating trick conceivable. She
has left me a life interest only in her money — a life
interest, and conditional. I have to acknowledge
* What ?' he exclaimed. * Your daughter ?'
* Did you ever hear anything like it ? I am so
disgusted and angry that I don't know what to do.'
Aylmer dropped into a chair, and crossed his
* Let us be calm,' he said. * On the one side we
have to consider some two thousand a year, I pre-
sume ; on the other — WiUiam's daughter. You'd
hke the money ?'
* Of course I should.'
* It's a great deal, certainly.' He swung a patent-
leather boot. * WeU, why not ? Your course is
obvious. You must take the girl.'
* It's easy for you to talk !' said Mrs. Fairboume
His amusement refused to be stifled any longer.
* Why ? Is she so objectionable ? I thought she
was rather pretty.'
* You laugh at ever5^ing t' she said. * You are
the worst confidant I ever came across !'
* My dear Amy,' he said, ' bring your sense of
humour to bear upon the proposition, and you will
laugh also !'
* I have been crjdng,' she declared.
* Really ? I don't beheve it ! You are too much
the woman of the world. After all, you will be
* Everyone will wonder so,' she said. * How shall
I account for keeping her in the dark all these
* Ah ! there you have me on toast. Would it be
possible to tell the truth by any chance ?'
' The truth ?' she queried uncertainly.
' Not possible, you think ?' His tone was a trifle
subtle. Was there also a sub-current of malice
beneath the humour in his eyes ? ' Perhaps you are
right. It is useless, as you say, to be original in
She was considering, and did not notice him.
* Oh, I won't have her !' she cried. * It would be
too ridiculous !*
* Don't let me persuade you,' he said lightly.
' In such a matter — ^a matter of inclination, a
matter of the heart— every soul must be its own
* How flippant you are !' she said, frowning.
* Is this what you call giving me serious advice ?*
* You wrong me,' he continued. * I am the most
serious man in London.'
She laughed at last, and he laughed ; but her
mirth rang hollow, and she checked herself abruptly.
' Sometimes I don't understand you a bit,' she
said. * Perhaps you were serious, after all ? You
alluded to a "matter of the heart." Of course,
there is no question of " heart " about it. I don't
believe in natural feeling. Why should I feel
maternal towards a grown girl I have only
seen once, by accident, since she was an infant,
just because I happen to have given birth to
* Don't scold me,' said Aylmer. * I say nothing.
It is your own affair.'
* What shall I do ?' she insisted.
He smiled again.
* Just what you like — ^as we all do.'
* I have been spending the extra two thousand a
year,' she said. * I really can't give it up. What
will she think ?'
* She will welcome the change, no doubt, from the
Angler's Inn to Great Cumberland Place.'
* If I were a rich woman I wouldn't contemplate
it for a moment,* she sighed ; * but, imder the cir-
' You wiU r
* I suppose I must. But it is most aggravating.'
*The next time I come,' he said, *I shall find
Miss Rosabel here ! Can I be of any assistance in
the matter ?'
* There is nothing to do. I shall write to the
solicitors, and say that I accept the conditions — ^and
* Do let me come with you,' he begged mischiev-
* Certainly not !* she replied.
After all she did not fetch Rosabel. The prospect
of such a dramatic return to the Angler's Inn was
too much for her. She requested Mr. Gell to nego-
tiate the matter. As he had been the medium
of conmiunication throughout, it seemed a proper
proceeding to her mind.
The lawyer went. He was middle-aged, dapper, a
bit of a swell, and he ran down from the office to the
riverside village one afternoon in a silk hat and a
Rosabel happened to be the first person he saw on
reaching the Angler's Inn, and he guessed who she
was at once.
* I have private business with Mrs. Collins,* he
said. * Will you kindly give her my card and ask
if I can see her ?'
He gazed at the girl curiously as she took it.
Rosabel despaired of herself unnecessarily. There
was nothing common in her appearance, and to-day,
in a cotton blouse, she looked both pretty and
She conducted him to the bar parlour, which was
empty, while she went to fetch her aunt. The card
told her that the dapper gentleman was a lawyer,
but she had no reason to suspect that his visit con-
cerned herself, and returned to continue feeding a
pair of magnificent cart-horses with sugar.
Probably a quarter of an hoiur had passed when
Mrs. Collins came out.
' Rosabel,' she said, * go into the parlour. The
gentleman wants to speak to you.'
The woman's voice was tremulous and subdued,
and her florid complexion had faded a trifle. Ob-
viously something had happened.
* He wants to speak to me !* repeated Rosabel in
* Yes ; he's a lawyer, you know — ^the lawyer who
always sends your money.'
Rosabel looked at her aunt earnestly under her
lashes, and plaited the comer of her muslin apron.
* What has he come for ?'
* He'll tell you. Go along.'
The girl went indoors, and opened the parlour-
door slowly. Mr. Gell, standing at the window,
turned to greet her with amiable speculation.
* I thought,' he said, ^ that you must be Miss
Rosabel! I have come down from London on
business of yours. Let me introduce m3^f . My
name is Gell, of Geary and Gell. We are— er — Mrs.
* Who is Mrs. Fairboume ?• inquired Rosabel,
* Why, your mother, to be sure !* he said, sur-
prised and amused.
The girl stood at the table, with red cheeks and
* What is the matter ?* she asked.
Her brusqueness was disconcerting. Neverthe-
less, he renewed an ill-timed geniality.
* Won't you sit down, Miss Carpenter? We
should be able to talk more comfortably.'
Rosabel took a chair at the table, and Mr. Gell
seated himself opposite.
* I am here,' he resumed, * at Mrs. Fairboume's
request, to make a communication to you which
will lead to important changes in your Ufe. You
are aware, I presume^ of the history of your birth ?'
He might have been the family lawyer of the
stage, but he had no sense of humour, and Rosabel
* She ran away with my father, and was ashamed
of it afterwards,' said Rosabel, * so she didn't want
me, because I was his daughter.'
* You put it harshly. Miss Carpenter.'
* I don't see any other way of putting it,' said
* She was very young, and obeyed her father, and
afterwards her husband — ^her second husband,' cor-
rected the diplomatic Gell gently. * You must
make allowances, my dear young lady — ^indeed, you
must. Of course, you know that she has always
supported you V
Rosabel nodded, and stirred impatiently.
* She would have come herself this afternoon but
for the awkwardness of taking you unprepared,
especially after her visit the other day.'
* What visit ?' demanded the girl.
* It was on Wednesday, I believe. She was with
Rosabel's red face turned white.
* Is she fair and pale, with golden hair ?' she
asked breathlessly. * Did she wear a blue dress
trinuned with lace, and a picture hat ?'
* I don't know about the attire,' said Mr. Gell,
* but the rest of the description is correct.'
Odd little twitches caught Rosabel's brows, her
nostrils, the muscles of her mouth. She sat silent,
staring at the lawyer.
* She wants you to go and live with her,' he said
deliberately, *at her house in Great Cumberland
' She really wants me ?'
* Yes ; she will be ready to receive you as soon as
you can come. I was to tell you so.'
A look of surprise came into the girl's eyes. She
was stirred to the heart by a misconception, which
was natural enough. Her lips trembled ; she could
not speak. Her face was transfigured by a holy
She thought that this lovely lady, who was her
mother, had taken a fancy to her, and that the
promptings of maternal love, awakened at last, had
dictated the lawyer's visit.
Mr. Gell was not an imaginative man.
* You see,' he continued, * there is a large sum of
money involved. Your mother's aunt, Miss Eliza
Dudgeon, of Torquay, has left her the income of
fifty thousand pounds on condition that she acknow-
ledges you '
His voice turned to a meaningless buzz in Rosa-
bel's ears. Only when, at the end of his speech, he
repeated a sentence twice, did she imderstand that
he was congratulating her on being heiress to fifty
* You mean that I get fifty thousand pounds at —
at Mrs. Fairboume's death ?' she asked at last.
* Yes. A nice sum, Miss Carpenter.'
' I can't have any of it now, can I ?'
' No ; but as you will reside with your mother,
you will not require it.'
Rosabel looked up.
* Suppose I don't want to live with my mother ?'
* We won't assume anything so improbable,'
replied Mr. Gell, slightly taken aback, nevertheless.
'Of course, you will be glad to exchange your
present surroundings for your mother's home.
You may not be aware that Mrs. Fairboume resides
in the most fashionable part of London, with all
the elegance and luxury suited to her birth and
position. Your mode of existence would be very
different from what you are accustomed to
The girPs eyes brooded on the lawyer's face. She
had a child-Uke way of staring sometimes, which
disconcerted the person stared at without revealing
the least self-consciousness on her part.
* But suppose,' she persisted, * I don't want to
live with her ? She can't make me, can she ?'
* Until you are of age, or married, your mother is
your legal guardian, and you must obey her.' He
hesitated. * When you are twenty-one it will be
in your power to release her formally from the
obligation imposed by Miss Dudgeon's will. I
mean, that if you did not choose to live with your
mother, and you signed a paper to that effect, she
would not lose her life interest in the money, because
the separation would be your fault.'
* I see,' said Rosabel. * Then all I have to do is
to wait till I am twenty-one. Two years isn't so
very long !*
He thought her a sullen, ungracious, and stupid
girl. She seemed to prefer the gutter to the draw-
ing-room ; the force of heredity, no doubt. Never-
theless, he felt it to be his duty to add a note of
* But you must understand that if you elect, at
any age, to leave the home your mother provides,
she is not obUged to support you.*
^ That wouldnH matter,' said Rosabel. * I am
used to being a servant. My aunt would take me
back — or I could find another place.*
* I prophesy that you will change your mind
when you have tasted the pleasures of wealth,* said
the lawyer, rising. * However, the future is for your
own consideration. The present is what concerns
us at the moment. Mrs. Fairboume wishes to know
when she is to expect you. Shall I say to-morrow
* I don't care,* said Rosabel reluctantly.
Mr. Gell extended his hand with a half-smile.
* Ah, my dear young lady, when you are a little
older, you will appreciate your good fortune !*
Rosabel accompanied him to the door.
Directly he had gone, her imcle and aunt came
out of the bar.
* I*m to go to my mother to-morrow,* said
* What ? Really !* exdauned Mrs. Collins. * I
couldn*t believe it.*
She was all of a twitter with excitement.
* And what's this about fifty thousand pounds ?'
* Vm to have fifty thousand pounds when my
* From a great-auni you've never seen nor heard
of, too,* added Mrs. Collins. *Well, it do seem
strange ! Just like one of the stories you're always
' You'll be like a young princess,' said Collins.
The respect which the serving class, above all
others, pays to mere money was already visible in
his manner towards his wife's niece. No merits
moral or intellectual, on Rosabel's part could have
inspired a similar regard in the ex-butler's breast.
* I wonder how many servants she keeps !'
* I never saw such a lucky girl,* said his wife.
' Oh yes, I'm very lucky,' said Rosabel. She
VWhat in the world is the matter with you now ?'
asked Mrs. Collins. ' You've always had your nose
in the air, and now you're going to be a lady and
live on the fat of the land. What can you want
As usual, when her * tone ' was the subject of
complaint, Rosabel shut her mouth, and made no
' What more can you want, I say ?' repeated her
aunt, with exasperation.
Two young gentlemen arrived at that moment,
demanding tea. The heiress to fifty thousand
pounds went away, without more ado, to wait on
All night Rosabel lay awake thinking of to-morrow.
She had already packed her clothes and the few
trifles, in the way of birthday and Christmas presentSu
which she cared to keep. In the morning there
would be nothing to do except to say good-bye to
the only real friend she had in the neighbour-
hood — ^a lame girl, the daughter of the village
She did not feel at all excited. On the contrary,
there was a weight on her heart. The thought of
meeting her mother quite counterbalanced the
material advantages of the change. Her mother
did not really want her. Had it been otherwise,
as she had imagined at first, the girl would have
been glad enough to go. But she saw plainly that
she was being forced upon a woman to whom her
presence would be only less distasteful than the
loss of a large income. She would be entering a
new world among strangers, who would regard her
either as a nuisance or a joke, to live a life of com-
parative splendour without love.
If she had been still a child, it would not have
mattered. She would have had a proper educa-
tion, she would have taken root naturally in the
new soil, and grown up an equal among her mother's
class. But she was too old to go to school. With
habits and ideas already formed, she was to be
thrown into this new world unprepared, at the sen-
sitive and self-conscious age of budding woman-
When she heard the birds twittering at the window
in the dawn, a lump came to her throat, and she
realized for the first time that this place which she
had despised so much was home. She was not
looked down on here. Her aimt had shown her
affection, and the man had always been kind.
It was natural that she should fall asleep at last,
and come down to breakfast late. It was even
more natural that nobody should scold her. The
glamour of young ladyhood was over her. Collins
cut her bread-and-butter, and her aunt fetched her
fresh tea. All the morning, too, they stole furtive
glances at her as though she were a queen. She
was not expected to put her hand to anything ; and
again, as on her eventful birthday, there was her
favourite pudding for dinner, and a small bottle of
Afterwards she said good-bye to the dog, to the
cat and kitten, the fowls which she had fed so many
times, the orchard, and the stable-yard. At three
o'clock a barrow came to the door to wheel the little
shabby tin trunk, which her aunt had given her, to
The woman threw her arms round the girl's neck,
and broke into loud weeping.
* You'll forget us now,' she said. * You'll never
come to the Angler's Inn again.'
' Of course I shall come to see you, aunt,' said
' You know I was always fond of you, Rosabel.
I'm awful sorry you're goin'. If I've scolded some-
times, it's been the fault of your own queer sulky
temper, though. Gawd knows, I don't want to go
back on that now !'
* You've been very kind to me,' said Rosabel,
* and I shall come soon.'
She returned the kisses, and felt like cr3dng, too ;
but at the back of her mind was a memory which
restrained the tears. She could not help wondering
whether her aunt would have been as sorry to part
with her if she had not represented a himdred
pounds a year.
Collins took a second-class ticket for her, and
Rosabel started on her journey with a piece of
paper bearing her mother's address clasped tightly
in her hand. She had only been to London a
few times in her life, and then merely for the day ;
but her directions were explicit, so she could not
get lost. She was to take a cab, on arriving at Pad-
dington, and drive straight to Great Cumberland
Throughout the journey of fifty mmutes the girl
sat erect and self-contained, absorbed in thought.
She tried to fancy how her mother would greet her,
and what the house would be Uke. She felt like a
servant going to a new place. There was the same
uncertainty about her reception and what would be
expected of her, the same sense of strangeness and
consciousness of her new gloves.
She went about her business methodically on
reaching London. Her box was found and put on
a four-wheeler, and the address given to the cab-
man. Then the roar of London descended upon
her, and her entity seemed to be caught up and
whirled along like a straw in a mighty stream.
She saw none of the streets through which she
passed. She sat in the cab as she had sat in the
train, rendered drowsy by the unreality of things.
Only when they turned a comer on which she saw
Great Cumberland Place written, something stirred
sharply within the girl at last, and her apathy gave
way to a sickening suspense. But, as usual with
her, to be shy was to show no more than an accen-
tuated impassiveness, and nobody would have
guessed how her heart was beating when the door
She was expected. Her box was brought into
the hall, and the butler conducted her upstairs.
The drawing-room was shaded by sun-blinds and
fragrant with the scent of flowers. A vague blur
of colour and the rustle of silken skirts greeted
Rosabel as Mrs. Fairboume rose from the couch.
' How do you do, Rosabel ?* said a soft, low,
cultivated voice. * We have met before, you see,
but you did not know me I I hope you will be
happy and comfortable with me, and that we shall
soon be good friends.'
Rosabel said nothing at all.
After a brief hesitation the lady, flushing, kissed
her daughter on the cheek.
* Did you come alone ?' she asked.
* Yes,* said Rosabel.
* I thought they would have sent someone with
you. Do you know London ?*
* Not very well.*
' Your room is ready for you,' added Mrs. Fair-
boume. * I dare say you would like to take off
your things before tea, which will be up in a moment.
My maid will show you the way. Come down again
when you are ready.'
' Yes, thank you,' said Rosabel.
Mrs. Fairboume touched an electric bell twice,
and in the moment which elapsed before a smart
lady's-maid appeared, neither mother nor daughter
'Show my — Miss Carpenter to her room.
She had been on the point of saying * my daughter,*
but had been really unable to bring out the word.
The whole affair made her feel so queer — ^the girl's
silence and * woodenness,' which was sullen rather
than gauche, and her own embarrassment — a sen-
sation strange to her. She had intended to carry
off the ordeal with a light hand, but had failed to
attain the relieving note of comedy she had re-
hearsed. Was it going to be even worse than she
had expected ?
She sniffed at a bottle of smelling-salts. It was
absurd, she felt, to be upset. Two thousand a year
was worth a little unpleasantness. She would soon
grow used to Rosabel.
Her self-command had returned, and she was
prepared once more to cope with the situation by
the time someone knocked at the door.
* Come in,' she said.
Rosabel entered. She had removed her hat and
jacket, and washed her face. Her short, ill-made
skirt and thick-soled shoes looked curiously incon-
gruous among the expensive fripperies of the London
drawing-room, and the girl realized it, with her
usual intuition, and her eyes clouded still more, and
the comers of her mouth deepened.
Mrs. Fairboume, sitting with her back to the
light, smiled in faint amusement.
* You need not knock at the sitting-room doors,
Rosabel crin^soned, perceiving that she had made
her first mistake.
* Come and sit beside me,' added Mrs. Fairboume,
graciously indicating the vacant place on the
couch. * Are you glad or sorry to leave the Angler's
' I never liked it very much.'
' I suppose your aunt was grieved to part with
* She said so.'
* And you had an affection for her, no doubt ?
You lived with her a great many years. I hope
she was kind to you, and that you were comfortable
on the whole ?'
* Yes,' said Rosabel.
* It's a pretty part of the country,' continued
Mrs. Fairboume, in the pleasant, condescending tone
which a woman who does not understand children
uses to a strange child. * I thought the river was
lovely. It was singular that my launch should have
stopped so near, and that I should have come to the
Angler's Inn without knowing that you were there !
I was surprised to find you such a big girl. I don't
think I had realized that you were grown up. Let
me see how old are you now ?'
Rosabel turned a gaze both sullen and fierce on
* Of course ! But you do not look as much/ said
The girl's thick lashes drooped again. She began
to pliat her dress, presenting no more of her face
to her mother than the curve of a full peach-like
^ Impossible,^ murmured Mrs. Fairboume with a
shrug, under the cover of the opening door. * Here
is the tea,' she said aloud. ^ I am sure you must
want some after your journey.*
Rosabel's expression just now had positively
startled her. And she had given birth to this
young savage i It was inconceivable.
She poured out the tea.
* Do you take sugar and cream, Rosabel ? Help
yourself to cakes. To-morrow I must see about
getting you some decent clothes. Do you like
pretty things ?'
' Yes,' said Rosabel.
Her hand shook at that moment, so that she was
afraid of spilling her tea, and her face flooded with
colour once more. The simple question touched
her thoughts curiously. She liked pretty things so
much that she would even have liked this pretty
thing who was her mother, and forgiven everything,
if Mrs. Fairboume had only opened her arms and
asked for her love. The woman's elegance and
daintiness, the very perfume of violets which her
movements wafted abroad, captivated the imagina-
tion of the girl. Despite herself, she was attracted.
But no appeal of the right kind was made.
Rosabel averted her gaze. She would not look ;
she would not allow herself to soften. A moment
had passed which would never return.
* Have you anything in the way of a dinner dress ?*
asked Mrs. Fairboume.
* I have a white silk blouse.'
' It must do for to-night. I will get you a couple
of ready-made gowns to go on with. I can't see
you walking about like that. What do you usually
do with your spare time, Rosabel ?'
' I like reading.'
* That is very fortunate. Perhaps you could find
something to amuse you on that table over there
while I write some letters ?'
Amy Fairboume detested writing letters, but
anything was better than trjdng to make conversa-
tion for her daughter. She settled herself at her
escritoire with a sigh of relief, and Rosabel made a
selection from the latest volumes from the * Gros-
venor,' and sat down as far from her mother as
But the girl could not read. Outwardly stolid,
she was feverish within. While Mrs. Fairboume
scribbled off her notes, she sat staring vacantly at
the pages of * Lord Jim,' tuming over a leaf now
and then to keep up the pretence of occupation.
At intervals her eyes went on a furtive voyage
round the room. She thought it was beautiful,
and she was right. Mrs. Fairboume had exquisite
taste ; she collected old china ; an eminent artist
had helped her to choose the water-colours on the
walls ; and Aylmer had sent her the basket of
flowers which occupied a Chippendale table and
perfumed the entire room.
'And this,* thought Rosabel, 'is my mother's
house, and this is my mother.*
She had to say it to herself a great many times ;
it seemed so impossible. She felt more of an alien
at this moment than she had ever felt at the Angler's
Inn. Perhaps the strangeness would wear off.
At present she did not believe that she could grow
used to it. She was afraid to move.
When Mrs. Fairboume had used up all her arrears
of correspondence, she rose from the table, smiled
at Rosabel, and chose a book herself. In her set
it was necessary to keep up with the Uterary output
of the day, and to do so she had to utilize every
There was no interruption till seven.
' Now I am going to dress,* she said. ' You need
not go up for another half-hour unless you choose.
Dinner is at eight.*
She left Rosabel alone.
The girl rose then. She had a sensation of being
a mere visitor. She did not belong here. She was
tolerated merely because she represented two
thousand a year. Only that the amount of the bribe
differed with the social position of the bribed, she
stood exactly in the same relationship to her mother,
she perceived, as she had stood to her aunt. Why,
if nobody wanted her for herself, had she ever been
She pressed her face against the window, and
gazed with sombre eyes, to which tears were welling,
at the blank faces of the mansions over the way.
Mrs. Fairbourne was alone in the drawing-room
when Alec Aylmer was shown in.
* Thank goodness, you haven't disappointed me !'
she cried dramatically.
' It*s very kind of you.'
' Not at all. I should welcome anyone to-night.
I was afraid that you would meet with an accident^
or that your mother would send for you to Shrop-
shire, or that there would be a black fog in June to
keep you away. And then I should have had to
dine all alone with Rosabel i'
* Ah, Rosabel I* he said. * Then she has arrived ?
How do you find her ?'
* A perfect little clodhopper, as you might sup-
pose. Not a morsel of conversation, answers in
monosyllables when spoken to, and shuts up at a
touch like a limpet on a rock.'
* Perhaps you frighten her,' he suggested.
^ If I do, I can't help it. I am sure I received her
most amiably, and I have promised to take her out
shopping to-morrow — in self-defence, as a matter of
fact. Where do you think this sort of people get their
clothes? Is the finished article imported by the
village shop, or do they buy remnants at a sale
in the Edgware Road, and "make them up" at
* I wonder,* said Aylmer, with an air of profundity.
' Do you think Gough would know ?'
' He would never admit that he didn't. He
would put us off the scent by describing the exact
fashion of skins in vogue in the Stone Age, and bring
us down, vik Roman togas, to the ceremonial cos-
tume of the Patagonian of to-day. By that time
everyone would be tired, and the subject would be
changed, and Gough's reputation for knowing
everything saved. Oh, how is it that I can laugh ?
My temper must be that of an angel. Just think
how she will cut up a dinner-table — my dinner-
table, which has always been above reproach.*
* Can't she dine in the nursery when you have
* Now you are trying to be funny,' said Mrs. Fair-
' Send her to school.'
' At nineteen years of age ? Besides^ there's the
old cat's will. I must have her with w^.'
* Well, marry her.'
' That isn't a bad idea, but it isn't so easy. Good
God I that ever I should come to be a woman with
a daughter to marry !'
* She's not a bad-looking girl,* he said, leaning
lazily against the mantelshelf, ' and there are plenty
of boys about.*
' Yes, but we're in the wrong set for that sort of
thing — the most difficult of all. The young fellows
we know are just beginning professions, and are on
the look-out for money ; and the older men, whose
positions are made, are already married, or else
they want a brilliant woman who can entertain a
' I dare say you are right. But she will have
' When I die,' retorted Mrs. Fairboume. * Thank
you, but I am not going to die before my time
in order to give Rosabel a dower !'
' She may be somebody's taste, nevertheless.'
* You are too sanguine,' she moaned. ' It's
no good a girl having decent features nowadays
if she isn't bright. Only absolute beauty could
overcome the disadvantages of her lack of
* Lord Pentormel married Dolly Vere of the
Empire ballet the other day.'
' Oh, she had bad manners, which are better than
none ! Besides, he was a lord. I am talking about
mere men — men of intellect, the salt of the earth.
Fancy any of us with Rosabel ! It will gain me a
mortal enemy every time I choose her a partner for
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The door opened at that moment, and Rosabel
Mrs. Fairboume and Ayhner left off talking, and
gazed at her.
The girl had put on the white silk blouse with her
Sunday skirt. Once it had pleased her, but she
had been told that her clothes were frightful, and
could well believe it. That alone would have made
her self-conscious and clumsy without the unex-
pected appearance of Aylmer, and the silence and
half-suppressed amusement which greeted her en-
trance convincing her that she had been the subject
She grew red and sullen.
' Come and be introduced to Mr. Aylmer,* said
her mother. ' I think you have seen him before,
Aylmer extended his hand, smiling.
*Yes, we have certainly met before. Miss Car-
' For goodness' sake, don't call her Miss Carpenter I'
* I wouldn't dare to take the Hberty of calling her
* I give you leave,' said Mrs. Fairboume. ' I
think I shall drop the Carpenter altogether, and
call her Fairboume. Different names would only
lead to confusion.'
Rosabel's hand, absolutely unresponsive, dropped
from the man's.
' What will Miss Rosabel have to say to that ?'
' Nothing, of course !' replied Mrs. Fairboume a
trifle sharply. * Such matters are for me to decide.'
He fotmd Amy Fairboume, in the r61e of 'mamma,*
decidedly entertaining. She meant to have the
upper hand, that was evident, and she would get
it. The masteriy manner in which she always
obtained her own way in social matters, secured the
celebrities she wanted for her dinners and At Homes,
defeated presumptuous rivals, and monopolized the
attention of the best men in the room, had filled
him with amused admiration many times. Now he
was to have the pleasure of watching her skate,
with her usual grace, across the thinnest of ice>
dragging this imdesirable daughter behind her, and
escaping — as he was sure she would escape — ^the
dousing she deserved.
Dinner was announced, and Aylmer offered his
arm to his hostess. Rosabel followed them down-
stairs. It made the girl feel more than ever an out-
sider that her mother should have a guest to dinner
on her first day. She was to be criticised by two
pairs of eyes, it seemed, instead of one. Her mis-
takes were to be witnessed by this man who was
nothing to do with her. Already she disliked him,
and his ill-timed presence gave her fresh food for
resentment against her mother, who showed such
lack of consideration for her natural strangeness in
these new surroundings.
The dinner itself did not minimize her discomfort
It began with hors d^o^uvres, which she had never
seen before, and she hesitated and reddened over
caviare, prawns, and olives, and eventually declined
all. The multitude of knives and forks on the
table confused her, also the fact that certain dishes
were handed roimd, and that she was expected to
help herself instead of being served, as she had been
accustomed to. Things were disguised, too, by
strange sauces, and she did not know whether they
were fish or flesh until she discovered, in an agony
of humiliation, that she had taken the wrong knife
Scarcely a remark was addressed to her through
three courses. Mrs. Fairboume led the conversa-
tion, and Aylmer made no attempt to break loose
and draw out Rosabel, being as indifferent as most
men of the world to the imdeveloped ingenue. So
they talked over the girPs head, as though they
were alone or she were a child, of people she did not
know, places she had never seen, and things she did
not understand. And reaUzing that she was being
ignored, Rosabel grew more and more sullen.
Her secret sensitiveness, which nobody had
troubled to discern, received a final shock when, in
attempting to cut the ice-cream pyramid presented
to her, she shot a large piece on to the floor. It was
an accident which might have happened to anybody,
and a woman would have laughed and turned it into
a joke. But to Rosabel the accident completed the
revelation of her awkwardness and ignorance, and
she seemed to hear her mother's voice as the blood
rushed to her head :
' What is your name ? You remind me of a
servant I had once/
Yes, she was hopelessly common, ill-mannered,
ill-bred. Everybody must see it. No doubt the
dignified butler was smiling in his sleeve.
Aylmer was smiling, at any rate, although he
meant no more than good-natured reassurance.
' Never mind, Rosabel,' said her mother. ' It
Benson brought a large spoon and a plate, and
scooped up the mess, and Rosabel's cheeks did not
cool until the coffee and liqueurs diverted her atten-
tion from herself.
Mrs. Fairboume took a cigarette out of a silver
box, which she passed to Aylmer, who also helped
himself. He struck a light, and offered it to his
hostess as a matter of course.
Rosabel stared. She had never seen such a thing.
' Do you smoke. Miss Rosabel ?' he asked.
' No,' said Rosabel brusquely ; ' I shouldn't have
been allowed to.'
Mrs. Fairboume's thin, well-shaped lips curled.
She exchanged glances with Aylmer, and they both
looked at Rosabel as though she were a specimen of
an unknown breed.
* Why ? Isn't it the fashion at the Angler's
A slow fire burned in the girl's eyes. She grew
fierce and rude under the hated goad of ridicule ;
she was like a wild animal newly trapped, and baited
by the oppressors.
* I thought it was only dnmken old Irish women
who smoked !' she said. ' I never saw a lady
do it !'
' You have still a great deal to see — and to learn,'
returned her mother quietly. ' Won't you try the
Crime de Menthe, Mr. Aylmer ?'
Rosabel longed to get up and rush from the room.
She had disgraced herself thoroughly this time, and
the ease with which her mother passed to another
subject, and the man helped to cover the awkward
moment, pointed still more plainly to her own in-
feriority. Nevertheless, she had the consciousness
of indirect provocation to support her. It was only
an infinitesimal part of the great wrong which had
been done to her from birth — ^a sprig of the tree
which had been growing with her growth.
When they went back to the drawing-room, she
made no pretence of joining in the conversation, or
even associating with her mother and her mother's
guest. She sat apart, away from the carefully-
shaded electric lights, glancing now and then at the
pair who talked so lightly and so well.
She picked up an illustrated journal by-and-by,
and made a pretence of looking at the pictures. It
was a relief when the dock struck ten, and her
mother spoke over her shoulder to the girl.
* I dare say you are tired, Rosabel ? You may
go to bed if you like.'
Rosabel got up slowly. She was wondering, in a
flood of uneasiness, how she was expected to say
good-night to her mother.
Mrs. Fairboume solved the difficulty, which had
not existed for her part.
She nodded to her daughter, who had shaken
hands with Aylmer and stood awkwardly waiting.
* If you want anything, you can ring for Brace.
Tell her at what hour you wish to be called in the
morning. I never come down to breakfast. You
can have yours when you please. Good-night, my
She added something under her breath in French
to Aylmer before the door closed, and Rosabel
heard them laughing.
The girl went up to bed with tingling cheeks and
trembling lips, her eyes half blind.
* I hate her I' she cried passionately. * I hate
It was true, but hatred was not the only emotion
which tore at her heart. Mingled with it was a
grudging admiration of her mother, a fierce jealousy
of those attributes which lack of education had
placed beyond her reach. No graceful move-
ment or gesture of Mrs. Fairboume's, none of the
evidence, so continuously given, of mental cul-
ture, ready wit, and knowledge of the world, had
escaped the notice of the girl who seemed to notice
nothing. And as she imdressed slowly, she went
over the incidents of the evening again and again,
remembering, with strange distinctness, almost
everything her mother had said, and how she had
looked when she said it, and the tones of her
voice ; and in contrast she drew a picture of
herself, with a fantastic self-depreciation which
was almost loathing — herself, awkward, silent,
and sullen with conscious ignorance and injured
pride — a lump of coal beside a diamond, a monster
beside a fairy queen.
She looked at her hands, which were always red,
and the first finger roughened by much coarse
needlework in the way of household mending ; at
her waist thickened by the wearing of cheap corsets ;
at the colour in her cheeks. She admired a tapering
figure and long white fingers, and a colourless face,
and carmine lips — ever)rthing, in fact, which seemed
to her the archetype of refinement, and was her
mother's, and not hers. Even her coarse under-
clothes reproached her to-night. She could not
pray. Whatever her faults might be, she was not a
h3^ocrite, and would not return thanks when she
could find nothing to be thankful for.
Rosabel did not know what to do with herself after
breakfast in the morning. She was not used to
having her time at her own disposal. The house
was as silent at nine o'clock as though it were still
the middle of the night, and there were only a few
tradesmen's carts, and a footman taking a poodle
for an airing, to be seen out of doors.
Having examined the contents of the dining-
room, she went to the drawing-room to find a
book. There seemed to be only two reception-
rooms in the tiny but perfect house, and it surprised
her that a rich woman like her mother should care
to live in such a small place. She supposed it was
very expensive, however, as it was so near Hyde
She had grown tired of reading, and was wonder-
ing if she might go out, when her mother
Mrs. Fairboume was all in black to-day. Her
mourning had arrived, and her fair hair and white
skin were thrown up by the contrast. She looked
Digitized by VjOOQIC
exceedingly well, in fact, and being aware of it made
her amiably disposed towards her daughter.
' Good-morning, Rosabel. How did you sleep ?
I got up early on purpose to do our shopping,' she
continued, without waiting for an answer. ' As
your great-aunt mentioned you in her will, you must
wear black for a little while. I shall only remain in
full mourning three months, and even less will do
for you. It seems a great expense for a few weeks.
You have had your breakfast ?*
' Yes, thank you.*
* At the end of July we shall be going to the
country. You must have plenty of muslin and
cotton frocks — ^nothing is prettier for a girl.* Mrs.
Fairboume had been pondering, evidently, over
Aylmer's suggestion to get Rosabel married. * I
want you to look your best,' she added. ' Clothes
and carriage — carriage is very important, Rosabel
— make such a difference. What size shoes do you
* Not a very small foot,' mused her mother, ' but
then you are a big girl. I must have your hands
manicured. I was noticing them last night. Red
hands and ill-kept nails are abominable.'
* I kept them as well as I could,' she said. * I had
work to do.'
* Yes, I know. We won't talk about that, I
am not reproaching you. By the way' Mrs.
Fairboume paused a moment, and then continued
dehberately — * there is something I wish to say
to you, Rosabel. I may have callers this after-
noon. Certainly you will be meeting my friends
soon. It is not necessary that you should mention
your antecedents to everyone.'
The girl raised her eyes questioningly.
* I mean that you need not tell people where you
have been Hving, and with whom. It will be suffi-
cient to say, if you are asked, that you have been
living with your father's people. You understand ?'
* I'm not going to tell lies about it,' said Rosabel.
' I didn't ask you to tell lies about it,' replied her
mother sharply. * Only to say nothing at sJl. You
ought not to find that very difficult !'
The swift retort struck home. Rosabel's lids
drooped, and the sulky mouth closed.
There was silence.
* I am going to put on my things,' added Mrs.
Fairboume. * You had better do the same.'
Her voice was smooth once more, but on her way
upstairs she frowned, and for an instant there was
a likeness, rarely discernible, between her and
' I hope this girl is not going to spoil my temper,'
she thought. ' There is nothing so ageing as ill-
temper, and I really can't afford, at my time of
She looked in the glass anxiously when she
reached her room, and passed a soothing finger over
the skin at the comers of the eyes where crow's-feet
come, and wiped away the furrow she had just made
between her brows.
' Rosabel scowls like a little devil. When she is
my age, she will be a mass of lines and wrinkles.
The lower classes never know how to educate their
faces. She is very Uke her father — only not so
good-looking. What a pity she isn't a beauty —
a real, striking beauty, who might have made a sen-
sation ! I should find it much easier to get on with
She deceived herself. If Rosabel had been
brilUant enough to cast her into the shade, her
indifference to the girl would have become dislike.
Rosabel had the youth, but she did not know how
to make the most of it. Although the woman
would not admit it to herself, the foil this shy,
awkward, heavy, and apparently stupid girl made
to her own brightness and polish, filled her with a
soothing sense of superiority, and took away some
of the annoyance of having her daughter forced
upon her. After all, the world was a pleasant place.
Her pecuniary position was now comfortable, and
she had had a note from Alec Aylmer by the morn-
ing's post enclosing tickets for a concert which even
mourning for an aunt did not prohibit, and asking
her and Rosabel to limch at the Carlton.
* It's so fortunate that he takes Rosabel pro-
perly,' she mused. *Some men would hate the
idea of a grown girl, especially a girl who is not
quite the thing. Really, he is behaving very well,
bless him I'
She no longer thought of crow's-feet, and other
horrible things of the kind. After trying on two
new hats, she decided that the one with the
ostrich feathers was the more becoming, and
descended the stairs humming. Even the sight of
Rosabel in a frightful straw with a blue bow in it
— ^like a nursemaid's — and a skirt which dipped
at the back, could not spoil her restored good-
The victoria waited. Lacquer, harness, and
horses' coats glistened in the sun.
Rosabel entered a carriage for the first time in her
life. Her temperament was an unhappy one. Per-
haps the cravings with which she was endowed, God
knows why, would never be satisfied* Even this
splendour did not make her happy. She experi-
enced a throb of pride, it is true, but it was gloomy
pride. The outward magnificence only made her
more conscious of the inward poverty. Although
she sat beside her mother, whose garments brushed
her, they were as far apart as the poles, and loneU-
ness to the young is misery. There was nothing in
common between them. A thought-reader could
not have known better than Rosabel that while she
was brooding over her own relationship to her
mother, her mother was thinking of a thousand
things in which she had no part.
She would rather have been outside an omnibus
with some shabby woman of tender heart who loved
On reflection, Mrs. Fairboume suggested that
Rosabel should remain upstairs dtiring calling hours
until she was * fit to be seen.* The girl was willing
enough. A dull sort of curiosity was her attitude
towards this new world and its inhabitants. Under
happier circumstances, she would have been eager
to meet the people, on equal terms, whom she had
only seen in the distance hitherto ; as she was
situated, she was far too injured and forlorn to
desire to make acquaintance with any of her mother's
friends. If all the women were like Mrs. Fairboume,
as smart and unfriendly, and all the men like Mr.
Aylmer, they would scorn her, and she would hate
As it happened, nobody came that afternoon, and
her new clothes were delivered in the morning.
It seemed to Rosabel a ridiculous pretence to
wear black for a woman she had never seen. She
was glad that she was going to be rich some day,
because it would enable her to be free, and to choose
her own friends ; but she could not feel any senti-
digitized by VjOOQIC
ment for the memory of Miss Dudgeon, who had
shown as little consideration, during her lifetime,
for her great-niece's welfare as Mrs. Fairboume
A remark on the subject, inspired by the sight of
the new dresses, was the first voluntary one that
Rosabel had uttered since her arrival at Great
' Why,* she asked suddenly, * do you think Aunt
EUza left me her money V
' Oh, to annoy me, of course !* rephed Mrs. Fair-
boume thoughtlessly. ' She couldn't take it with
her, and she was bound by nature to keep it in the
family, so she made herself as disagreeable about it
as she could.'
* Then she didn't Hke you ?' said Rosabel. * I
* Not that I mind your having it after me,' added
Mrs. Fairboume. * It was the tying it up and
treating me Uke a child which annoyed me. Pro-
bably I should have left the property to you in any
' Would you ?' asked Rosabel.
She looked so surprised that Mrs. Fairboume
actually coloured. Then she bit her Up, and grew
angry. It was absurd that this brat should have
the power to sting her.
Well-cut clothes made an astonishing difference
in Rosabel. Her figure was wonderfully improved,
and the consciousness that she was no longer ridi-
culous caused her to hold herself better, and to
lose the clumsiness which had marred her before.
But she lacked distinction still — she was only a
good-looking girl ; and Mrs. Fairboume, who had
regarded her with brief anxiety, smiled approval.
Their styles were so different that they could never
* That is much better, Rosabel. But you don't
know how to do your hair. My maid must show
It was her At Home day, and at a quarter to five
the callers began to arrive.
Amy Fairboume was always at her best when she
had to carry ofE an awkward situation. Difficulties
called forth all her courage and tact, and, apparently
serene, she took the hedge before her with a flying
* Let me introduce to you my daughter Rosabel,*
* Your — ^your what ?^ gasped the lady addressed.
* My daughter,* repeated Mrs. Fairboume sweetly.
* Didn't you know I had a daughter ?'
* N — ^no,' said the other woman, putting up a
pince-nez, and extending her disengaged hand to
Rosabel. * She is quite a big girl, too ! How do
you do, my dear ? I suppose you have been at
school abroad ?*
* No,' said Rosabel shortly.
6 — 2
Mrs. Fairboume intervened with her light, un-
embarrassed laugh. •
* Her father's people have had her,' she said. * It
was an old arrangement. I promised poor George,
you know, before I married him. He was so jealous.
But now, of course, that her education is finished,
and there is no longer any reason why she shouldn't
be with me '
* I hadn't the least idea,' murmured the friend.
* How queer of you. Amy !'
* Why ? Because I didn't bore you about her ?
Who cares for other people's children ! Do you
think she is Uke me ?'
She put an arm, as she spoke, round her daughter's
waist. Rosabel did not make the sUghtest response ;
only her eyes plainly expressed her contempt of
this little comedy on her mother's part.
* I don't think she is at all Uke you,' replied the
friend. She laughed. * But I'll take your word
for her ! Good-looking,' she added ha an aside to
* You think so ? I am glad !'
* And I suppose you are very pleased to be with
your mother, my dear ?'
Rosabel's lips opened and shut. She looked
at the carpet, and murmured an inarticulate
Had the diplomatic Mrs. Fairboume felt uncom-
fortable for a moment, and was she reUeved ?
* Of course she will prefer London to the country
— girls always do. And it will be good for her.
She has Uved too quietly. Rosabel, take Mrs.
The way she dismissed the girl was rather clever,
and Rosabel, equally glad to be dismissed, stole
out of the room.
Nevertheless, the astonishing fact passed from
one batch of callers to another throughout the
afternoon. Mrs. Fairboume's replies were always
easy, and adroitly vague. But after everyone
had gone she remained thoughtful, and not in the
best of tempers. -
It had struck her for the first time that Rosabel
was not only heavy and sullen, but antagonistic.
She stiffened under the caresses bestowed upon
her as though displeased ; it had been noticeable^
in fact. What would people think ? And it was
advisable that they should think about her as little
When mother and daughter met again, in the ten
minutes before dinner, Mrs. Fairboume had a
question cut and dried.
* Rosabel,' she said, * why do you never call me
Rosabel cast down her long lashes, and remained
* I am speaking to you !'
* I didn't know you wished it,' said Rosabel.
* Naturally, I do not wish you to be peculiar. I
should have thought so simple a matter required
no instructions on my part. There is another
matter. Why didn't you answer Mrs. Ivor properly ?
Of course, ever5rthing is strange to you, and you
feel out of place ; I can understand that. But you
must try not to behave like a savage.*
* I suppose I aw a savage,' replied Rosabel
* I hope you are not ill-tempered as well !*
* I shouldn't wonder.'
To her surprise her mother began to laugh.
The girl's morose voice and candid admissions
'Well,' added Mrs. Fairboume with restored
amiability, *you must do your best. You'll get
used to everything presently. I don't want people
to dislike you. To-morrow, for instance, Mr.
Aylmer has invited us to lunch with him at a
restaurant, so I hope that you will be very nice.'
* He has invited me ?*
* Yes ; both of us.'
' Must I go ?'
* Don't you want to ?'
*No.' Rosabel was emphatic on that point.
* He doesn't want me,' she added. ' He has only
asked me on your accotmt.'
* Perhaps so,' assented her mother. * Still, as
he has been kind enough '
* I don't want him to be '' kind '* to me.*
Mrs. Fairboume shrugged her shoulders, not
* Very well, stay at home if you like. I will
make an excuse for you.*
She would have Aylmer to herself, which would
be much more agreeable. Perhaps — ^who knows ? — ^a
few glasses of champagne would heat his over-cool
head, and bring him to the point.
She hoped that Rosabel would grow less difficult
as the strangeness wore off. It had not occurred
to her that the girl would be abnormal, less pliable
than other girls. But before a fortnight had
passed she reaUzed unpleasantly that Rosabel was
as set in some ways as a woman of thirty. Her
attitude of the first few days was maintained,
and maintained unfalteringly. She scarcely spoke
to anyone, and rarely laughed or even smiled.
Whenever it was possible she kept out of the way,
and if the mother ventured upon a touch of playful
affection before company, the daughter*s coldness was
palpable to all. Rosabel had a savage indifference to
appearances indeed, and there were moments when
the woman, who cared more about this world than
the next, detested her. This state of things was
not conducive to amenities in private, when Mrs.
Fairboume could safely vent her pent-up irritation,
and many bitter and spiteful remarks helped to
keep them apart.
Mrs. Fairbourae was torn, indeed, between desire
to indulge Rosabel's fancy to be let alone, and fear
that the policy of her inclination would destroy
the girl's chances of marriage. And if she did not
marry they would have to go on living together
indefinitely, a prospect which filled Mrs. Fairboume
with unmitigated horror. She had already given
up the attempt to make the best of Rosabel's
society. It was obviously waste of time.
' Has she no feeling at all, or is it only that she is
quite stupid ?' she asked Aylmer. * She looks at
me sometimes as though I were talking to her in a
* Oh, you will get on better by-and-by,' he said
soothingly. * She is not used to a mother, and
you are not used to a daughter, and she has
been badly brought up. It might have been
* Impossible I' she declared with conviction.
* She might have sworn at you in dialect I'
Mrs. Fairboume shuddered.
* What a horrible imagination you have !'
* And been forward instead of shy.'
* I wouldn't mind her being shy if she were not
sulky as well. I might be her worst enemy when
I suggest to her that she is making a fool of herself.
I believe she hates me.'
* What an idea !'
' Of course, the whole position is absurd,' she
insisted. * I should not have expected anything
else. Affection cannot be created full grown
between two human beings just because they
happen to be parent and child. We are as much
strangers to each other as if I had picked her up
in the street.'
* Certainly you must find her a husband,' he
* If you were a true friend you would help me.*
' I have an Australian cousin just over. How
would he do ?*
* Oh, the very thing !' she cried. * An Australian
cousin might find her exactly the type he admired.
Any money ?'
* Enough, I think.'
* Do bring him, there's a good fellow I I'll make
a dinner — a. little private family sort of dinner,
you know, with no outsiders to distract his atten-
* Really ?'
* Could I joke on a topic as serious as Rosabel ?'
she asked reproachfully. * I reckon on you.'
'Then I'll bring him to see you to-morrow
afternoon if he hasn't an engagement.'
* You might tell him beforehand,' she suggested,
with an air of affected cmming, * about the fifty
thousand pounds !'
The next day Aylmer kept his word, and brought
his cousin to call at Great Cumberland Place.
The cousin's name was Bellamy, and he was rather
a good-looking fellow, big and raw, and conven-
tionally colonial, with a sunburnt throat emerging
from a turned-down collar and a brown beard,
which he tugged nervously at embarrassed moments.
No contrast could have been greater than that
between him and Aylmer.
Mrs. Fairboume smiled when they were intro-
* So charming of you to come and see me, Mr.
Bellamy I' she said. * I am in mourning at present,
and cut ofE from the world, so I am more than
ever dependent upon the kindness of my friends.
Where is Rosabel ?*
Aylmer rang, and Rosabel was summoned.
It was an amusing fact that the Australian
seemed to take a fancy to the girl, though she spoke
very little, as usual. The mother's perfect manner
frightened him, no doubt; with the daughter he
felt more at ease. His clumsy attempts to draw
Rosabel into conversation entertained Mrs. Fair-
boume and Aylmer hugely, and in the spirit of
hilarity which had procured his introduction they
talked to each other, and gave the partfs budding
indination every chance.
He was telling Rosabel about his hfe in Australia,
and she roused a little, and asked questions.
She was heard to remark that the freedom and
the horse-riding might be attractive, and he
longed, with eagerness, to see her out there some
Then it was time to go ; imf ortunately, he had
an appointment with a friend.
* I was just saying to your cousin that I hoped
you would both come and dine with us,' said Mrs.
Fairboume, as the big Australian took his leave
of her. * Are you free on Saturday ? It will not
be a party, as we are in mourning — just a few
Bellamy was delighted, and said so. The cousins
went away together.
* Mr. Bellamy seems to be rather a nice man,*
observed Mrs. Fairboume lightly. * You got on
very well, didn't you, Rosabel ?'
' I couldn*t help listening if he wotdd talk,' said
This was unpromising.
' Don*t you like him ?*
* I don't like or dislike him,' replied Rosabel
Nevertheless, Mrs. Fairboume placed her guests
carefully on Saturday — they were just half a dozen —
and sent Rosabel down to dinner with Bellamy.
Aylmer and herself made four, and the other two
consisted of a fashionable lady novelist who was
as brilliant in conversation as on paper, and a smart
editor of an equally smart review. These people.
herself and Aylmer, would talk without stopping
all through dinner, and Rosabel and Bellamy would
be obUged to entertain each other. Jt would be
amusing if something really came of the joke.
She attached no importance to Rosabel's paraded
indifference. There are girls who are ashamed of
admitting a preference for any man. If only this
man would marry her, and take her back to Australia
with him I In the lull she heard his voice.
' Then you never saw your mother till lately ?
Where did your aunt live ?*
' At a little hotel near the Thames, in Bucking-
hamshire, called the Angler's Inn.*
Mrs. Fairboume's white teeth gleamed in a hor-
rible smile. The lady novelist was still talking
on the other side of her, so Rosabel and Bellamy
did not notice that they were being observed.
* What made her choose such a funny place ?'
asked the Australian, naturally bewildered.
' She earned her living there,' said Rosabel,
quite calm. * She kept it, you know. I helped Her.
I used to wait on the coffee-room.'
* You I' he stammered. ' But your mother —
Mrs. Fairboume '
She intervened promptly.
* Who is taking my name in vain ? Mr. Bellamy,
you have no wine. Do look after yourself. This
is Liberty Hall, you know.'
It was nothing of the sort. The disorder of
Great Cumberland Place was always carefully
ordered, and the freedom of speech exactly the
tone of the moment, but for once no sensible im-
promptu had sprung to her Ups.
She looked a reprimand at Rosabel, and for the
remainder of the dinner monopolized Bellamy
herself, recalling all she had ever heard of Australia,
and inventing friends at Sydney and Melbourne
to amuse him. And she succeeded so well in sinking
to his level that he began to think her charming
in spite of the extraordinary revelations of her
Certainly, the control she had over her temper
was wonderful, and even Aylmer, who thought he
knew her, did not see what a rage she was in imtil
the others were gone.
As usual, he was the lingerer. They had an
appointment to make, and she could always find
something to say at the last moment in order to
detain him, and impart to their intercourse that
touch of superior intimacy which is flattering to
On this occasion she was not thinking of him.
Her self-control had deserted her for once. Directly
the door closed on the lady novelist, she turned to
Rosabel with lightning in her eyes.
' What did you mean,* she demanded, * by speak-
ing to Mr. Bellamy in that way ? How dared
* In what way ?* asked Rosabel.
' You understand me very well ; don*t be a hypo-
crite I What did you mean by telling him over
dinner, before everybody, all about your aunt,
the publican's wife, and the Angler's Inn ?*
: * I didn't tell him anything that wasn't true.'
'That is not the question. I forbade you to
mention your past to anyone.'
Rosabel looked up, her face dark with anger.
* I didn't promise not to,' she said. * I never
begin to talk about it. But he asked me.'
* You could have put him ofE easily. You
wished to tell him, that is the fact of the matter.
I have tried to believe several times that your
behaviour was mere stupidity, but it becomes
quite plain that it is malice as well. You seem
to take a delight in disgracing me.'
Rosabel drew on the carpet with the point of
her shoe. A rude answer would have exasperated
her mother less. This habit she had of seeking
refuge in silence tried Mrs. Fairboume's temper
' I can assure you,' she continued, ' that you
need not take so much trouble. Your ordinary
manners are quite sufficient to show people how
ignorant and ill-bred you are.'
Still Rosabel did not answer.
Aylmer wondered at the peculiar self-control
possessed by so young a girl. Somehow he did
not think this evening that she was obtuse.
Perhaps he had never watched her as closely before.
He began to feel sorry for her. If she cared it
was hard that her mother should scold her before
him. She was not a child. Amy grated on him
for once, although she had excuse, apparently, for
' I should have thought that the least you could
do was to make the best of yourself,' added Mrs.
Fairboume, * but I suppose you don't know the
meaning of decency. You are your father's
daughter, my dear.'
* Don't,' said Aylmer softly.
She looked at him in surprise. Her colour
* Oh, forgive me,' she said, resuming her normal
manner with an effort, * for boring you with my
domestic afflictions. You do so hate "words,"
don't you ?'
* I must be going,' he replied.
' Must you ?' She was a httle imcertain of
him. He was actually serious. It did not make
her feel better disposed towards Rosabel. But
her voice grew assured once more. ' When shall
I see you again ?'
' I'll look in soon. Good-night, Rosabel,' he
Rosabel had been gazing at him curiously
since he dropped that single word of expostula-
He pressed her hand slightly.
The girl, who had grown pale under the lash of
her mother's tongue, turned very red, and her lips
quivered for the first time. She bit them sharply^
and went to bed without a word.
It always pleases a man to discover that he is better-
natured than he had supposed. This may have
accomited for the fact that Aylmer thought a
great deal about Rosabel over his final whisky-
and-spda and cigarette that night. Or his interest
may have been awakened by signs of an imexpected
sensitiveness in the daughter caused by an equally
unexpected shrewishness in the mother. ^
Yes, * shrewishness ' was the word his mind used.
Amy Fairboume's tongue was alwa3rs a little
barbed. A woman who has to live up to a repu-
tation for smartness is boimd to be spiteful
sometimes. But to-night her rapier had become
* Not vulgar,* he mused. ' No, it would be harsh
to say " vulgar." A little brutal, perhaps. After
all, the girl must feel something. Why does she
never answer back ?'
One kind of * yoimg person ' would have had an
impertinent retort for every gibe. And another
kind of ' young person,' being tongue-tied by anger,
Digitized by VjOOQIC
or fright, or both, would have burst into tears, and
flounced out of the room.
Rosabel, having stood her ground in silence,
must therefore be a somewhat unusual young
person, who was less a t}^ than an individual.
She had characteristics, if they were only those of a
feather-bed which may be shaken up by every
strong pair of arms. Could it be possible that she
was worth studying ?
His reflections did not spoil his night's rest.
He was not so deeply in love with the fair widow
that the discovery of a flaw in her temper should
cause him pangs. His sentiment was rather of
that moonlight order which fails to distinguish
between gratitude for a good dinner and a pretty
woman's preference, and those warmer S3anptoms
of the grand passion. Usually he liked her very
much, and for five minutes this evening he had
not liked her very much — that was all. So he slept
without dreaming, and woke at his usual hour in
the morning with no nasty taste in his mouth of
either dissipation or disappointment overnight.
But that afternoon, when a stroll in the Park
brought him to the Marble Arch about five o'clock
he thought he would look in at Great Cumberland
Place to see how the domestic storm had ended.
It was a disappointment when his query at the
door brought the wrong reply.
' Mrs. Fairboume is not at home, sir.'
* And Miss — er — ^Fairbourne ?' he asked, almost
to his own surprise.
* Miss Fairbonme is in, sir.'
Ayhner went up. How many times had he
ascended and descended that staircase, with its
moss-green carpet, and white walls adorned by old
prints which there was not light enough to see !
On this occasion his usual impassiveness was a
little shaken. There was unfamiliarity about the
mere familiarity of things. Why had he asked for
Rosabel ? Did he really care whether mother and
daughter had made it up or not ? He was inclined
Still he continued — out of sheer indecision, and
inability to excuse himself to Benson, on whose
countenance he had already detected a gleam of
Rosabel was at the window reading when he was
* How do you do ?' she said. * Mother is out.
Didn't Benson tell you ?'
* Yes. I thought I would come up and see you.'
* Why ?' asked the girl bluntly. * Do you want
me to give her a message ?'
' No. I just came to see how you were.'
She stared at him in grave surprise, evidently
finding his conduct strange.
* Shan't we sit down ?' he asked^ dropping lazily
into a deep chair. * I must say you aire not very
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hospitable, Rosabel ! I believe youM rather I went
*N — ^no,' she said. Her cheeks reddened, and
her long lashes drooped. She fidgeted with her
* What are you reading ?*
' " In the Cage." '
' Do you like it V
* I think it's a lot of talk about nothing.*
He was amused.
* What sort of books do you like ?'
' I used to read the Family Trumpet and the
Weekly Magazine. I think they're good stories.'
She looked up with a challenge in her eyes, and
enunciated slowly and deliberately : * Mother says
they are vulgar trash, and only fit for kitchen-
maids, and that I am not to read them.'
* Do you like Charles Dickens ?'
* Charles Dickens ?' she repeated. ^ He wrote
** Vanity Fair," didn't he ?'
There was a pause. Conversatiou was difl&cult.
Nevertheless, he had the impression that she was
favourably disposed towards him this afternoon,
which encouraged him to persevere-
* Has your mother said any more to you ?' he
asked in a low tone.
*No.' She flashed him a brief, vivid glance.
* It was nice of you to say " Don't." '
' Was it ?'
* I thought about it afterwards/ she told him.
His doubts were all at rest. She 'thought
about ' things ' afterwards.' Then she was not a
feather-bed. He was inspired with renewed energy.
* Did you care ?* he queried, curious. * About
your mother, I mean ?'
* No. At least, I shouldn't have if you hadn't
been there,' she said honestly. * Why should I ?'
' You ought to care what your mother says.'
' My mother 1' she repeated. ' My mother !'
* And surely she had cause to be angry ?'
' Do you think so ?' asked Rosabel. * Why should
she be angry at having something talked about that
she wasn't ashamed to do ?'
Her tone was a revelation to him. He seemed
to be seeing her for the first time. The torpid,
sullen child had disappeared. This was a woman,
and a woman who could think and feel.
* Then you did tell my cousin on purpose ?'
* I shouldn't have said anything if he hadn't
asked. But I am glad he asked, and glad she heard,
and glad she didn't like it. I'd do it again I' She
choked. ' Suppose I have got the tastes of a kitchen-
maid ; suppose I am ignorant and stupid and ill-bred !
What else did she expect ? If she doesn't like my
manners, she has only herself to thank for them.
I am what she has made me.'
* You mean that your education was neglected ?'
* You saw where I was, and what I was t Life
in a public-house doesn't usually turn out perfect
ladies, does it ? Why did she leave me there ?*
The girl's voice, sarcastic and poignant, sent a
thrill down Aylmer's spine.
* I couldn't help it if my father was a groom.
She chose him, I didn't. And whatever he was,
he must have been better^ I think, than she is. If
/ had a child I wouldn't desert it. She's got more
to be ashamed of than I have !'
* But she is doing her best for you now.'
* Because she can't help herself, that's all. She
wants the two thousand a year. Otherwise, I
might have stopped at the Angler's Inn all my life.'
Everything she said was true, but it was so
remarkable and so interesting that she should see it !
* You are bitter. It's a mistake.' He shook
his head. * You'll never get on if you start with
* I don't care.'
* Why not let bygones be bygones ?'
Her eyes wandered from his face to the window.
^ I used to sit,' she said darkly, ' and think and
think. When I waited on the customers I was
thinking. I thought most of all that day she came
to the inn. She's very pretty and elegant and
clever, isn't she ? Such a lady !'
* Yes,' said Aylmer, with peculiar reluctance.
* I admire her immensely,' said Rosabel. * I
don*t know anybody I've seen that I admire so
He stared at her profile.
* And yet you are doing your best to make her
* Oh^ she won't be unhappy on my account,'
said Rosabel, with the brutaJ frankness which had
succeeded to her long reserve. * I am no more than
the dirt under her feet.'
* I saw her kiss you the other day.'
*Yes, before company.' She frowned in quick
irritation, and clenched her hands. * I won't have
it !' she said. * She shan't touch me. I don't want
her kisses. I'll never, never have them !'
* Even if they were given — ^not before company ?'
*No. It's too late. She'd only be trying to
make herself comfortable.'
She had become as lucid as crystal. He seemed
to see right through her head.
* And you won't help her ?'
* She's being paid well. That is enough — ^too
* Do you know, I hadn't an idea that you were
taking everything so seriously ?'
*I don't talk about it as a rule. What's the
good ? I've never told anybody before. I don't
know why I've told you, except that you were
nice last night.' She turned her head now, and
regarded him defiantly. * I dare say you think Vm
' No,' said Ayhner.
* If you repeat anything to her, I'll — I'll hate
you ! She'd think I minded. And fV's too late.*
'*' I shall regard our conversation as confidential.'
' You're great friends with her, aren't you ?'
' Yes, rather.'
* Of course, I can understand it,' said Rosabel.
*' I should think she was a most fascinating woman
— to stra,ngers, I mean — to men.'
He did not reply, and a moment elapsed before
he spoke again.
' Why are you usually so silent ?'
* I've nothing to say. I don't know anything.'
' Very few girls do know anything. A girl isn't
expected to be a witty woman of the world.'
* Nobody cares about me, or wants to listen to
* I think you are wrong,' he said deliberately.
* My cousin liked you !'
* He comes from a village in Australia where
there aren't any women.' Her voice was distinctly
contemptuous. * I know what I am,' she added.
* I've no illusions.'
' You have illusions, I think. One of them is
that your mother has the monopoly of feminine
beauty and attraction. You are good-looking too.'
' Do you think so ?' She coloured warmly, and
a gleam of reluctant pleasure lighted her face.
* But I have no elegance, no manner,* she added
gloomUy. *She is so distinguished. One would
notice her in a crowd.*
* You are better-looking than your mother.*
* Oh, how can you say so !* Rosabel was actually
angry. ' You are only trying to be kind again.*
* And you have what no amount of style can
give back to a woman — youth. So you need not
She was still in a glow despite her protestations,
and her lowered lashes fluttered, and the comers
of her lips quivered.
' I think I must go now,* said Aylmer. He rose,
picking up his stick, and she rose too. ' I am glad
we have had this talk,* he added. * But I wish
you would forget your grievances, for your own
gake, and try to be happy.*
' I shall never be happy,* said the girl.
* Why not ? What an idea !'
* Happiness has to come from the inside. I
haven't got the temperament. I was brought up
in a way I didn't like. And now I'm too old to
* At nineteen ! My dear child, the whole of your
life is before you !'
* But I'm made,' she said. * I can't be made over
again. I've got to be just m3^self. Will you laugh
at me when you're gone ?'
* How suspicious you are !' he said. * I am
flattered that you should have trusted me. I want
you to regard me as a friend. Will you ? Talk
again another day, whenever you like.*
* Yes, thank you.*
' Good-bye, Rosabel.'
They exchanged the hand-clasp of confidence.
She moved towards the door with him.
' I haven't offered you any tea.*
* Never mind. I don't care for it.'
He nodded again, smiling, handsome, urbane, and
went his way.
' I wonder if he'll tell her ?' mused Rosabel,
biting her lips. * I wish I hadn't said ans^thing.
Why did I ?'
Aylmer left the house meditatively. An experi-
ence, which was the last he had looked for, had
infused a little unwonted heat into his veins. His
was usually regarded as a rather cold and deliberate
nature. He was not really cold, only it was so
rarely worth while getting warm.
His reflections were involved, and he had a
peculiar reluctance to pursue them far. But he
was obliged to admit sympathy for Rosabel, and
sympathy for Rosabel brought him once more face
to face with the inverse problem of her mother.
Amy had behaved badly. There was no doubt
about it. And the girl was painfully awake to it,
and when she talked from her heart she lighted up
wonderfully. She was even taking. Her anger
was like the elements — ^violent, natural, and unre-
strained ; a primitive force in an artificial environ-
ment. Aylmer felt as though a thunder-shower
had relieved the oppression of a muggy night.
She was refreshing, that was it — ^refreshing and new.
He threw back his shoulders, and drew a deep
breath. The thunder-shower simile had had almost
a physical effect upon him, so closely is a man's body
allied to his mind.
A victoria passed him at that moment, sweeping
out of the Park, and he caught sight of well-known
liveries, a fluffy sunshade, and a white face framed
He frowned more than was warranted by the sun-
light in his eyes.
' She is older than I thought,' he mused. * With
a daughter of nineteen, she can scarcely be less
* Is that Mr. Aylmer ?* asked Mrs. Fairboume.
She and Rosabel were walking down Bond Street,
a couple of da5rs later, behuid a pair of familiar
^ I think so,' said Rosabel.
She knew, so did her mother. But while Mrs.
Fairboume was more than willing to overtake him,
Rosabel shirked the meeting. Her reserved nature
was shocked every time she recalled the burst of
confidence to which she had treated him, and her
cheeks grew hot over the mere memory of it a dozen
times a day. She was sure that she had made her-
self ridiculous. He had restrained his amusement
merely because he was polite. She despised herself
for being so easily bought by a word of kindness.
He belonged to the opposition — ^to her mother's
party ; he was the archetype of that class which
made allusions and innuendoes she could not follow,
and laughed at jokes she could not understand. It
was absurd of her to have forgotten it.
She wished he would cross over, but fate was
against her. He lingered to look at a shop-window,
and her mother would not pass him.
Rosabel hmig back while he greeted Mrs. Fair-
bourne ; then he turned to her with a new sympathy.
* And how is Rosabel to-day ?'
* I am so sorry I was out when you called the
other afternoon,' said Mrs. Fairboume, without
giving Rosabel time to speak. ^ You should have
* I stayed a little while. Rosabel entertained
The woman laughed rather cruelly.
* I am afraid you must have found it even more
fatiguing than whist with your grandfather ! Oh,
you needn't exert yourself to say anything pretty !
Rosabel doesn't care !'
Didn't she ? He glanced at the girl, and differed
from her mother.
* How unkind you are !' he said dexterously.
* You tell me, in as many words, that Rosabel con-
siders my opinion of no consequence whatever.'
He smiled. * All the same, I will return good for
evil. Will both you ladies take tea with me ?'
* Of course we will.'
' Over the way ?' he queried. * The latest, I
believe — a Dutch interior, with the countesses, who
condescend to wait upon one, in real Dutch cos-
When they entered the tea-room they came upon
a smart young man of their acquaintance, who was
invited by AyUncr to join them. Under cover of
the conversation between him and Mrs. Fairboume,
Ayhner spoke to Rosabel.
' Well, how are you getting on ?' he asked. * I
suppose you haven't seen or heard anything of my
cousin ? He has just bqught a motor. I met him
last night, full of the enthusiasm of the proselyte.
He wants to know if you and your mother would
like to take a run down to Folkestone from Saturday
till Monday ?'
* IVe never been in a motor,' said Rosabel.
She thawed, and her eyes sparkled a little. She
was young, after all ; she could not always be
brooding over her grievances.
* Then I may tell him that a formal invitation
would be regarded kindly ?'
* I don't know/ she said. ' You'd better ask
mother. Would you come, too ?'
He mentioned the matter to Mrs. Fairboume at
once, and it pleased her. A letter from Bellamy
the same evening won a gracious acceptance from
the lady, and Saturday morning being fine, found
them all en route for Folkestone.
For once Rosabel was in good spirits. As they
were supposed to be in mourning, the girl had really
seen and done very little during her three weeks at
Great Cimiberland Place. The couple of informal
dinners and luncheons her mother had given had
been merely sources of accentuated dulness, bitter-
ness, and repining to Rosabel, who had found herself
to be the only outsider in a brilliant set. On each
occasion she had been more or less neglected, and
suffered an agony of mortification, and shed tears
in private when the guests were gone. And Mrs.
Fairboume, having given her intimate friends a
hint that they need not ask her daiightjer when no
other quite young people were expected, Rosabel's
amusements had been confined to a few afternoon
calls, a concert, and a picture-gallery.
To-day's excursion was something fresh and
welcome, and although Rosabel would not admit
to herself that it was possible to feel light-hearted,
something very Uke exhilaration sent the blood to
her round cheeks, and brightened her eyes at the
sharp contact of the air.
Mrs. Fairboume and Aylmer occupied the front
double seat behind the chauffeur ; Rosabel sat
beside Bellamy in the back one. He was making
violent efforts to be civil to her, and gave her to
understand by-and-by that the little week-end
party had been organized especially on her account.
This surprised Rosabel, and glancing at him to see
if he could be in earnest, she discovered his eyes
fixed upon her face with an expression only to be
described as ' moony,' and understood therefrom
that the Australian was * taking a fancy ' to her.
Why should her thoughts have reverted to her
aunt and the Angler's Inn at this moment ? She
might have been standing in the bar parlour while
Mrs. Collins, plump arms akimbo, gossiped with a
friend from the village.
* So What's-his-name is taking a fancy to So-and-
so. What a good thing for the girl V
The very smell of the beer was in her nostrils.
She emerged from a dream. The unconscious
Bellamy was calling her attention to a wayside farm
which reminded him, he said, of his place at home.
She surveyed him broodingly, unabashed ; Rosa-
bel was only shy when she found herself inferior to
her company. She noted his blunt features more
particularly than she had ever done before, his
broad yet rounded shoulders, the display of bronzed
bull-like throat, the clothes which seemed remini-
scent of the Antipodes because he wore them,
although they had been cut by a good tailor in
London. The man was homdy in manner and
speech; that was what made her think of the
Angler's Inn. He would not have been out of place
talking to her aunt between draughts of beer, in the
slurring burr of the countryman.
On that look of his her imagination had already
forged ahead, in the way of girls, to the possible con-
clusion. She was alive to the advantages of marry-
ing him. He would take her away from her mother,
there would be the dignity conferred by a wedding-
ring, and it would be pleasant to be loved and to
begin a new life in a new world where the majority
of people were no better educated than herself.
Nevertheless, she did not contemplate him seri-
ously. Something told her that her mind, though
untrained, was superior to his — ^not cleverer, perhaps
— ^finer. She had already seen enough of him to
know that she could appreciate subtleties of con-
science and conduct invisible to him. Probably
she stood alone — ^below the class which at once
attracted and scorched her with the unconscious
cruelty of the candle to the moth, deprived, by
secret pride, of the only companionship she was
likely to obtain. She did not feel flattered by his
attentions, and discouraged them.
They had lunch on the road, and arrived at Folke-
stone in time for tea.
It was Rosabel's first experience of a large
fashionable hotel, and she liked to watch the
people and listen to the orchestra ; but she wanted
to go out, too, and look at the sea^ which she had
not seen since she spent a fortnight at Margate
three years ago.
After tea they went for a stroll, and Aylmer
changed off with his cousin and joined Rosabel.
'Is this your first visit to Folkestone, made-
' Tes. Doesn't it smell fresh ?' said Rosabel,
sniffing the salt air.
Digitized by VjOOQIC
' As fresh as you look,* he replied.
In fact, she looked to-day just as she ought to
look always — ^young, open-faced, clear-eyed, un-
weighted by thoughts too heavy for her years.
* I enjoyed coming down,' she said. * I think
motors are splendid.*
* Bellamy will be delighted at his success. Did
you tell him ?*
She regarded him steadily, considering her reply.
It did not suit her to be as candid with everyone
over this matter as she had been with herself. She
would not even admit that she understood.
^ No ; mother thanked him. It doesn't matter
* Are you sure of that ?* he asked mischievously.
Rosabel turned her face to the sea. She did not
want to talk about Bellamy or think at all.
They re-entered to the hotel by-and-by, and Rosa-
bel was waiting in the hall for her mother, who had
gone upstairs, when a familiar voice addressed her :
* Why, it's actually Rosabel !'
Rosabel turned, and found Maurice Braithwaite
beside her. The colour rushed to her face. If he
was surprised, she was equally so. It seemed
strange to meet someone belonging to the old life
He was staring at her with an exaggerated aston-
ishment which was only half assumed^ his eyes
roundedi his mouth open. Then he laughed, as
at a very good joke indeed, and held out his
* Well, Fm blessed ! How did you get here ?
And such a swell, too ! What mysterious promo-
tion is this ?*
Rosabel had never liked him, and she was not
pleased to see him now. She remembered that he
had been rude to her at their last meeting, and his
familiarity was aggressive. He reminded her dis-
agreeably of the past. That she should ever have
been in the position to be regarded as * fair game '
by a man of Maurice Braithwaite's type was her
bitterest grievance. And now to-day of all days,
just as she was feeling happy for once, he turned up
to cast a gloom over her.
' I didn't expect to meet you,' she said. * Didn't
you hear Fd gone away ?'
* No ; Fve been away myself. Are you married '
— ^he laughed again — * and on your hone3anoon ?'
' I am living with my mother,' said Rosabel.
' Your what ?'
' My mother.'
' Oh yes, of course. Married beneath her, didn't
she ? Didn't know she was up to this sort of thing,
though. Are you staying here ?'
'We came down on a motor with friends
this morning, and we are going to stay till
* Where do you live when you are at home ?'
*In Great Cumberland Place,' replied Rosabel
Once more he gave a little laugh — of mingled
amusement and surprise. The idea of it all was
evidently strange to him. He could not realize
Rosabel in her new surroundings.
* Well, I congratulate you,' he said. * I am glad
to have come across you again, Rosabel. What is
your number in Great Cumberland Place ? May I
* I don't know whether mother would like it.'
' She won't mind.'
* I don't know whether / should like it,* said the
•That's pretty cool, 'pon my word! You are
your old self, Rosabel !'
* I don't change in three weeks — ^nor in three years.'
* Then you oughtn't to want to cast off your old
' But we were never friends — ^what / call friends,'
she said. * You know we weren't !'
Her eyes challenged his angrily. He was not
abashed, although he remembered well enough, no
doubt. As a matter of fact, he could not perceive
that he had ever given her cause for offence. It
was his experience that most girls like to be kissed
by a good-looking man — girls in a better position
than hers, too. She was a little fool, with no fim
in her. She wanted stirring up.
He looked at her long lashes, the perfect curve of
her cheeks, and the tendrils of hair which escaped
from the generous mass she had to caress her brow
and the nape of her neck. There was an untouched
bloom about her which had always attracted him
in spite of her heaviness. And now she was well
dressed and her figure improved. She reminded him
of a ripe peach, young and round, luscious and
sweet. He would like to do the * stirring up '
* I never saw such an improvement in anybody,'
he added, with the coolness of a connoisseur ap-
praising a work of art. * I scarcely recognised you.
Clothes make a lot of difference, of course. And
youVe learned how to do your hair.'
Braithwaite always noticed things about women
which would have escaped another sort of man.
Rosabel was growing angrier every moment.
* I don't think you ought to call me Rosabel,' she
said. * I am Miss Fairboume now.'
* Why Fairboume ?'
* It is my mother's name. She married again.
She wishes it.'
' Won't you introduce me ?' he asked.
* No,' she replied decidedly. ' Good-bye.'
*0h, I shall see you again presently,' he
said — 'perhaps to-morrow. I am staying here,
Nevertheless, he took her unwilling hand, and
added in a whisper which brought the blood to her
*When are you going to give me that kiss,
* Never ! I wonder if your wife knows what you
*She thinks she does, anyhow.' He laughed.
* She's gone home to her people in America for a
" spell," ' he said, ^ so I am a grass-widower. Do
you know her ?*
' I've seen her — ^not spoken to her,' said Rosabel.
Again her brow was overcast ; he managed to
rake up everything unpleasant. County ladies,
even if bom in the land of equality where social
distinctions are more insisted upon than they are
in England, do not * know * the waitresses of inns.
* Temper like pepper,' observed Braithwaite.
* She can stop with her " popper " and ** mommer "
as long as she likes.'
* I have no doubt that the right, when you quarrel,
is on her side,' said Rosabel calmly. * You must be
dreadful to live with.'
* Rosabel !'
It was Aylmer who called her. He saw her
talking to someone, and as she turned the two men
exchanged an inquiring glance.
* I am coming,' said Rosabel, and left Braith-
waite without more ado.
* Who's that fellow ?' Aylmer asked her.
* Oh| he lives down in Bucks, near the Angler's
Braithwaite strolled by presently. He was
curious, no doubt, to see her belongings.
Rosabel noticed him lounging about, but refused
to catch his eye. She would not introduce him.
He was much too impudent. It was a relief when
he disappeared at last.
As they were all going in to dinner later on, how-
ever, he reappeared with a friend, and contrived to
brush against Rosabel, whispering as he passed :
* When, Rosabel ?'
She knew what he meant at once, and crimsoned
with anger. Looking up, her eyes met Aylmer's.
' What is it ?' he asked in an undertone.
* Nothing, thanks.'
Braithwaite was ' nothing.' She could afford to
disregard him now. There was no longer a utih-
tarian aunt in the background to insist upon her
fetching him whisky-and-soda.
The next day she was careful not to stray away
alone. But Braithwaite was not so easily shaken
off. He walked boldly up to her as she was stand-
ing on the steps with her mother, and wished her
good -morning. He was trying to force her
Mrs. Fairboume could scarcely let the incident
' Who is your friend, Rosabel ?' she asked.
*Mr. Maurice Braithwaite — ^my mother,' mur-
mured Rosabel reluctantly.
His trick had only half succeeded. He remained
conversing with them for a few minutes, but it did
not suit Mrs. Fairboume to invite him to call on
them ; he knew too much about Rosabel.
After lunch they went for a coimtry spin in the
motor, and in the evening the balmy air lured them
out of doors again.
They strolled along two and two, Mrs. Fair-
boume, as a matter of course, annexing Aylmer.
After a little she grew tired, however, never caring
to walk far, smd they returned to the hotel.
Rosabel lingered rather wistfully. Indoors there
were many lights, many people, much noise ; out-
side there was the night, the silver sea, the stars.
* Are you loth to go in, Rosabel ? ' asked Aylmer.
* Would you like another turn ?*
' Yes, I should.'
Bellamy looked sorry that he had not spoken
first ; Mrs. Fairboume looked annoyed. She
wanted Aylmer beside her in the crowded loimge,
where all the smart people were staring and pr5dng
and picking to pieces each other's features and
characters and gowns.
' I am sure you have had as much exercise as is
good for you, Rosabel,' she said irritably. * You
have been out all day, and it is late.'
' We haven't had much walking, mother.'
* Mr. Aylmer is too kind to you.*
* Oh, not at all,' he said, in his pleasant voice.
* Come, Rosabel.*
They passed on.
* You are sure you don't mind ?* queried Rosabel
* Positive. In fact, I did not wish to go indoors.
The night is better company than that gaudy
parrot-house. May I smoke ?* He took out a
cigarette. ' Look at the shining track that lugger
is leaving behind her.'
' Lovely,* said the girl, breathing deep, * but sad.
A night like this always makes — ^makes me hungry.*
* Hungry ?' he queried.
* Yes, you know — ^for the things I shall never
They had stopped by the railing at the edge of
the cliff. Their figures were no more than silhouettes
against the sea.
Aylmer puffed at his cigarette in silence for a
* You'll get everything by-and-by, Rosabel,' he
' How can I ?' she asked.
*Yes, you will. You are young. You'll get
love ; that's ever5rthing — ^to a woman.'
* Love,* she repeated in a whisper — * love !'
The word had stricken her. She was in a softened
mood, relaxed for once. It may have been only
the night and the stiUness and the white light on
Ayhner*s voice, attuned to the occasion, was
scarcely a disturbance.
* What will Ae be Hke, Rosabel ?*
* I've never thought about it.' She glanced
defiance at him suddenly — ^the defiance of a thing
at bay. ' I am not sentimental, you know i'
' Aren't you ? Are you sure ?'
* I've always been practical. I've had to be.'
* And yet a beautiful night makes you hungry !
You are a bit of a humbug, my child.'
' I'm not, indeed !'
* You don't know yourself,' he said. ' Wait. No
life was ever all tragedy. You'll have your moments,
if not yoxxT years. Perhaps you are going to be very
happy by-and-by, in spite of your pessimism — so
happy that you'll even be able to forgive your
* No,' she insisted. ' I am sure I shall never know
what it means.'
' Love,' he said again softly, * love — love,
A whiff of his fragrant tobacco reached her nostrils,
which dilated. She stared blindly at the sea. The
obstinacy of her rejoinder seemed directed as much
against herself as him.
' Nobody I could care for would ever care for me,'
she said. ' It just amounts to that. Who am I ?'
* A very nice little girl when you like,* he said,
and now his tone was kindly and sensible, nothing
more — the touch of sentiment had gone. * Don't
shut yourself up in yourself too much, that is all.
Give people a glimpse of your soul sometimes. You
draw the curtains so close that one might make the
mistake of thinking there was nothing behind.'
Her silent communion lasted a long time.
* I wonder at your thinking like that,' she broke
out at last. * About love, I mean.'
' Why not I ?'
* Usually you talk as though there were nothing
He laughed low and lightly.
* Oh, one talks, Rosabel ! You mustn't believe
everything you hear.'
She turned dark eyes on him.
* I disliked you at first, you know.'
* But you don't now ?'
* No. Have you ever been in love ?' she asked.
* What a question ! What a child you are !'
* But you must know,' she persisted.
' Perhaps I have fancied so once or twice.'
' I suppose, as you say> that women think more
about it than men,' she said, musing. ' I don't.'
She stirred, and he seemed to know without seeing
that she was frowning. * I've other things.'
* But you don't mean to stay with your mother
* No ! When I am twenty-one I can do as I like.
I'm just waiting till then.'
' That is your plan, is it ?'
He threw the end of the cigarette away, and it
sank through the darkness Uke a falling star.
' If she doesn't want to give me any money, she
needn't,' said Rosabel. * I can always keep myself.
My aunt would take me back.'
* To the Angler's Inn ? I thought you hated it
so much ?'
* So I did, so I do I' cried the girl passionately.
* But there's nothing I wouldn't do to get away from
*You are young to be so malicious. Wrong,
Rosabel ; you're wrong.'
* But why should I stay ? How can I care for
her ? If I died to-morrow she'd be glad !'
* You mustn't say that I*
* She would ! You know she would ! Then I
couldn't disgrace her any more.'
He was distracted by the attempt to reconcile
sympathy for the girl with loyalty to the mother.
It seemed rather mean to leave Amy in the lurchi
yet Rosabel was a force. It astonished him, when
he came to think of it, how much arrestive power
she had without eloquence to justify it. She was
like a sledge-hammer striking sparks from hot metal,
a glimpse of volcanic fire, the muttering approach
of a tropical storm.
He found strange similes for her, standing by her
side on the prosaic asphalt. But the glamour of
night was there — anight which creates a mystery in
the half revealed ; and she was a woman at this
moment, not merely Rosabel, and he was a
*At thirty,' he said, *you will laugh at the
tragedy you made of life at nineteen. Everything
is either black or white for you, there are no grays.
You exaggerate your mother's feelings absurdly.
Of course, she does not want you to die. She would
be shocked if she knew you thought so, I am sure.
And the idea of going back to your aunt is equally
preposterous. The true solution of your problem is
She remained silently antagonistic.
'Yes, marriage,' he repeated firmly. Then he
laughed. * Why don't you marry my cousin ? He
is a good fellow, su£Giciently well off, and I know he
is more than half in love with you already.'
* No, thank you,' said Rosabel.
* He won't do ?'
* I couldn't,* she said.
' That settles George i' He was amused.
* Have you ever talked about him with mother ?•
* I believe I did so once.'
*She needn't get any ideas of that kind into
her head,' said Rosabel fiercely. ' I'm not going
to be married off to anyone just to please her. You
can tell her so !'
* Quite unnecessary. A decision of that kind
must always rest with you. I am sure,* he added,
* she would never attempt to influence you. Her
ideas are too refined.*
' Of course, you like her very much,' said Rosabel.
' You won't admit that she isn't perfect.*
There was a silence of thirty seconds. Strolling
figures passed behind them with the murmur of
Aylmer laid his hand on the girl's arm.
* Don't be cross, Rosabel. I thought we were
* Oh^ she is your friend !'
' Can't I have two friends ?'
* I don't know. I've never had more than one.'
' Don't you count me ?'
* It's best not to have anybody,' said Rosabel.
* Then you've got nothing to lose.'
She folded her arms as though she were defending
herself from all the world, and leaned on the rail.
Aylmer lighted another cigarette.
* You're morbid,' he said, ' and I am tired of you !
Let us go home.'
The noise and atmosphere of the * parrot-house '
jarred upon Rosabel's mood when they entered.
She said good-night to her mother and the men
abruptly, and went to bed. To her room, at least.
The girl did not undress. She pulled up the blind
and opened the window wide, and drew a chair to it.
She was restless to-night, and the sea was S3anpa-
thetic. It was quivering, quivering all the time.
Myriads of silver molecules danced in it, leaping
xipi dying down, heaving, seeking something. She^
too, was seeking something.
Her talk with Aylmer had made a deep impression
upon her mind, she did not know why. It was not
that he had persuaded her to think better of her
mother or more hopefully about the future. On
the contraryi she felt sad and lonely, and her heart
She leaned her head against the casement. In
a dreamy moment she fancied that she was still
standing beside him, with the scent of his tobacco
in her nostrils and the sound of his voice in her
*Love,' he was saying scrftly^ 'love — ^love,
Mrs. Fairbourne had already put her affairs in
order. Ayhner's twelve hundred was awaiting
her pleasure at the bank, and next year she would
enjoy her whole enlarged income free from debt.
Meanwhile there was a little surplus, and she planned
an extensive redecoration of the Great Cmnberland
Place box dining her absence from London. She
could afford the best of everything at last, thank
God, and she was fond of her home.
Aylmer called one morning at twelve to find
her surrounded by waU-papers and chintz — ^the
Folkestone trip was already a couple of weeks old.
* How do you like this for my bedroom ?* she
^ It will look charming, I am sure.'
' And this for Rosabel ?'
* Also charming. Did she choose it, or did you ?•
* Oh, I did.' She laughed. * But she likes it.
She's not pig-headed in matters of taste, I will
admit. She alwa)rs allows me to know better.*
* Where is she ?' he asked. * I have brought
you round a couple of tickets for the Temple flower-
show. I thought you might like to go.'
' I should. But Rosabel won't be home. She
has gone down to Buckinghamshire to see her aunt.'
' The people of the Angler's Inn ?'
* Yes. I don't know whether I ought to allow
it. I meant to cut that connection altogether.
But she insisted, and it wasn't worth a fuss. So
I let her go alone. I didn't care to send Brace.
Servants are such snobs, and their tongues are so
* Why didn't you tell me ? I would have taken
' You ?' She looked up in surprise from her
wall-papers. * But I shouldn't have imposed upon
your amiability. You are altogether too good about
Rosabel. Of course, I appreciate it.'
' I like the girl,' he said.
' Do you really ? I was afraid she bored you
' On the contrary, she interests me.'
* I wish she interested me,' sighed Mrs. Fair-
bourne. * When we are at meals we sit like a couple
of owls, and I dream dreams.'
' Why don't you try to talk to her for a change ?'
' I have tried, and I can't. To me she is hermeti-
cally sealed, and I fail to extract even a trickle of
conversation from her. Sometimes I ask myself
whether she can really be mine, and wonder if the
Digitized by VjOOQIC
Collinses are passing ofi a changeling on me. At
least, I should wonder if she weren't so like William.
Poor child, a female William ! What a shocking
thing for her !'
* You really think her so impossible ?' He
asked for information.
'She may improve, but I doubt it. She is of
the type which doesn't want to learn, you see.
She is quite satisfied. She won't be told.'
' Perhaps you misjudge her.'
' Why ?' Mrs. Fairboume was scornful. ' Is
she so deep ?'
* She isn't as shallow as you suppose.'
* Then you have made a study of her? '
' I study everybody.'
' And I only those who are worth it,' she retorted.
'Then turn your attention to Rosabel, I pray
you, before you go farther from home — ^where even
charity should begin.'
She ceased fluttering the leaves of the wall-
paper book, and regarded him curiously.
' Do you mean it ?'
' I do. I should like you to reaUze that your
investigations in a certain quarter would repay
you, and that you might make both the girl and
She vras wrapt in silent meditation for a moment.
'Oh, she is happy enough,' she said. 'She is
torpid, you know. People of that class, William's
class, are not gifted — or is it cursed ? — ^with keen
sensations. She is living in a luxury which is novel
to her, and no doubt her heart is swelling with
gratified pride, and she has gone down to Bucking-
hamshire to-day to play the little pompous snob
in her new clothes. Men make a mistake, as a
rule, in attributing any but the simplest motives
and emotions to girls. But it's awfully sweet of
you to take an interest in her.' Her fine eyes
looked dewy, and she extended an apparently
impulsive hand to him — she who was never im-
pulsive in these days. ' I had no idea how sweet
you were !'
He felt rather a traitor as he took the hand ;
nevertheless, out of habit, perhaps, he pressed it
sUghtly. In some ways she was a delightful
woman. But she did not shine as a mother. It
might be a fact that maternal feelings could not
be acquired full grown, but must grow with the
child. She might be as charming as ever, for
instance, with a baby. Once he had even gone
so far on the road to matrimony as to contemplate
her like that. Was it Rosabel's existence which
had obliterated the picture ? A nineteen-year-old
girl — ^with a mind, too ! And the mother must be
He had not said it to himself in as many words,
but doubtlessly the notion had come home to him
Digitized by VjOOQIC
that, as a step-father, he would be * damned
ridiculous.' Besides, why, after all ?
When a man who has never been in love begins
to analyze his sentiments, and reaUze how gossamer-
like they are, the woman's chance is gone. He
was thinking of * settling down,' and she had
seemed desirable. And now, for various reasons,
she no longer seemed desirable.
But self-engrossed and self-satisfied, she did
not dream of it, and thanked him sincerely for his
kindness to her daughter. He had admired her,
and her vanity could not imagine a serious defection
on his part. She was rather annoyed that he should
think she was not treating Rosabel properly, but
she attributed his * interest ' solely to the fact
that the girl was hers, and that he wished them
to make the best of things.
A little officious of him, perhaps, but 'sweet.'
She repeated the adjective to herself, and the irri-
tation passed. How much better that he should
like Rosabel than regard her as an obstacle !
* As Rosabel will not be at home, you might
accompany me to the flower-show this afternoon,'
Rosabel's visit to the country improved her frame
of mind. The contrast between past and present
could not fail to strike her, and make her realize
that it was pleasant, after all, to live like a lady,
even with her mother. Mrs. Collins had never
looked so stout and red, Mr. Collins had never looked
so smug and butler-like, and her old bedroom had
never looked so plainly furnished. Even the
servants* rooms at Great Cumberland Place were
better. And as she had not been expected, onions
were being cooked for dinner, and the smell of them
pervaded the inn, even submerging the usual
odour of beer.
But the old setter nearly went out of his mind
with joy at seeing her, and the servants made
excuses to come into the parlour on errands to have
a peep at ' Miss Rosabel,' and her aunt said : ' My !
all silk underneath, and that hat with those feathers
couldn't have cost a penny less than three poimds !'
This was soothing, undoubtedly. There was some-
thing romantic, too, in being able to preserve an
unmoved demeanour in the face of the sensation
she was creating, and to fed gloomy through all.
She had brought presents, and took away the
good wishes of all, and a pressing invitation to
It was already time to dress for dinner when
she reached home, and it was t5T)ical of the terms
she was on with her mother that she went straight
to her room instead of reporting her return. So
they did not meet till they met at the dinner-table,
and then Mrs. Fairboume dismissed her daughter's
doings with a mere question :
' Did you have a pleasant day, Rosabel ?*
' Yes, thank you.'
Mrs. Fairboume sipped her hock. The golden
sparkle of the wine was like the woman herself.
Rosabel had often thought so as she sat at the
table silent, thinking, it was supposed, about
nothing at all.
' Mr.- Aylmer took me to a flower-show, so I had
a pleasant day, too/
* Did you ?* said Rosabel.
Her satisfaction in her own performance was
blighted. The gloom of her habitual mood held
her in thrall again.
* He mentioned,* continued Mrs. Fairboume,
* that his cousin was going to Scotland to-morrow.
Did you know ?'
' No,' said Rosabel.
*I was surprised to hear it.' Mrs. Fairboume
fixed her daughter's eyes across the table. ' I
thought he had a particular reason for wishing to
remain in London for the present.'
Rosabel did not respond ; she felt herself growing
red. She understood the innuendo, and it occurred
to her suspicious nature instantly that Aylmer had
been discussing her with her mother while they
were out together. Why should she trust him ?
He was nice when he was with her, especially when
they were alone, but, of course, he had known her
mother much longer than herself. The idea that
he might have passed on some of her confidences
made her feel sick.
' Are you sure you don't know why he has gone,
' How should I ? Why should he tell me ?'
asked the girl resentfully.
' He did not say anything to you during the
trip to Folkestone ?'
' Anything about what ?'
Mrs. Fairboume shrugged her shoulders.
* If you don't know what I mean you are a
fool. Even the kitchen-maid understands when
the milkman admires her. That man was prepared
to marry you if you had given him a little encourage-
ment. I am afraid you have been silent and dis-
agreeable, and thrown a chance away.'
' I don't want to marry him,' said Rosabel.
* But I suppose you don't want to be an old maid ?
It is useless to be too particular, Rosabel. I cannot
introduce you to many eligible men.'
Rosabel's eyes were fixed upon the table-doth.
* He was well off,' pursued her mother, as though
she had answered. ' Mr. Aylmer mentioned fifteen
hundred a year. And on the death of his father
he will come into a considerable fortime. You
are very foolish. But it may not be too late. I
have reason to believe that he liked you very
much. Perhaps you do not realize what a repellent
manner you have ? A stranger would think that
you were always sulky about something. You
must cultivate a more pleasing expression, my dear
child, or few men will look at you twice.'
'Then they can look another way,' muttered
' Please don't be impertinent,' said Mrs. Fair-
The conversation lapsed as Benson returned.
Rosabel helped herself blindly to the dish proffered
Had her mother's complaint originated in her
own head ? She meant to ask when Benson was
gone again, but Mrs. Fairboume spoke first. She
might have guessed what the girl wanted to know,
although her remark was only an after-thought,
designed to impress.
* I am not the only person who tliinks you are
making the worst instead of the best of yourself,'
* Do you mean Mr. Ayhner ?' inquired Rosabel.
'Yes. We were talking about you this after-
noon. He is kind enough to take an interest in
you on my account, and he thinks that it is a pity
you don't try to be more attractive.'
Rosabel's cheeks bumed Hke hot coals. Then
he was a traitor ; he had discussed her with the
enemy ! She hated him at this moment. He had
become once more the stranger who had smiled
with her mother over her awkwardness on her
first night at Great Cumberland Place.
As it happened, several days passed before she
saw him again. Aylmer was kept very busy
doing nothing, like most idle, pleasant men of
When they did meet at last Mrs. Fairboume
and Rosabel were driving in the Park, and the sight
of him brought the victoria to a standstill at the
* Where have you been ?' asked Mrs. Fairboume,
with gentle reproach.
* I am so sorry ; engagements. You will soon
have every opportunity of getting tired of me.'
His reply would have soimded pointed to an
outsider ; unfortunately, she knew what he meant
only too well. They were due at the same country
house next week.
* Oh, you are fishing,' she said. * Such modesty
is unnatural !'
They chatted for a few minutes, and Mrs. Fair-
bourne invited him to drive with them. Rosabel
told herself that she hoped he would decline, and
yet when he did so she was disappointed. He had
not spoken to her all this time, and she had not
spoken to him. If he did address her she did not
mean to be agreeable. He should find that she
did not think enough of his opinion to take it to
*Well, Rosabel,' he said suddenly, 'are you
beginning to long for the country ? I am. The
London trees are getting brown with dust. I
annex your company for a walk every fine morning !
I am sure you and I will be the only people down
to breakfast at eight. Take note of it !'
* I haven't many engagements,' said Rosabel,
' so I am not likely to forget.'
' If you do,' he said, * I shall come and hammer
at your door.'
Rosabel's anger vanished like mist in the sun.
Perhaps he had not criticised her unkindly, after
all I He had told her himself that she was too
silent and reserved to please people. He need
not have repeated it to her mother, certainly, but
she could not help forgiving him. It was so evident
that he had not the least suspicion of having hurt
her in any way.
From that moment Rosabel began to look forward
to this visit to the comitry. The prospect . of
sta5dng at a strange house with a party of people
who did not want her had seemed likely to be
far more of an ordeal than a pleasure, and she
had dreaded it. But it would make a great dif-
ference if Aylmer took notice of her. Perhaps,
after all, she would enjoy herself.
A rare light illumined the girl's eyes, and her lips
relaxed. She had a beautiful mouth when she
allowed it to retain its natural lines — ^fuU, soft,
sensitive, and her face could be wholly sweet and
She was picturing what it would be hke to ramble
through the fields and lanes with Alec Aylmer.
They would be alone, and in the early morning,
when the air was fresh and the dew still sparkling
on the grass. Already she could smell the newly-
turned earth, and hear the larks, and feel the
spring of turf under her feet. The country was
best after all. He had spoken as though he liked
it too. She was glad of that, and glad that
he should know, without asking, that she shared
his taste. It renewed the old S5anpathy between
them, and made her feel at home with him. If
only her mother were not coming to make her
miserable again with ridicule and contempt, and
to remind him to be C5niical ! When they were
alone he was so different.
Her musings culminated in a warm thrill, an
odd fluttering of the heart. It had come suddenly —
the realization that she loved him. A great shame
overwhelmed her. It was happiness as well for
the moment in which she saw life as it might be
and had never been for her.
* You will get love, and love is everything — ^to a
Then she had felt no more than a dim aching
bom of loneliness and the savage sdf-depreciation
which was for ever telling her that she must always
be different from oflier girls. Now the longing was
definite ; but even as she recognised it the rapture
passed, and her heart sank and sank, and hope
drained away like the sand in a glass. It was stupid
of her to care. Of course, he would never. . . .
Henceforward she blushed at the mention of
his name, and feared that he would guess her
secret if she looked at him. A gltoce from her
mother was like an accusation. Nobody must know.
This secret she would share with none — Ayhner
least of all.
* You are not offended about anything, are you ?'
he asked her one day.
* No,' she said.
' Sure ?'
She nodded, tr3dng to smile, and feeling more
inclined to cry.
Still, he was kind to her, and it was possible
that even she dreamed dreams. But she only
regarded them as dreams. They were as distinct
from life, in Rosabel's estimation, as the penny
stories she used to read. She passed the time,
that was all, and when she saw or heard an3^hing
that moved her, the hunger came which she had
mentioned to Aylmer in that burst of confidence
in the moonlight by the sea.
So Rosabel began to count the days, and Mrs.
Fairboume began to count the days, each brooding
apart. The woman thought only of herself and
her own plans ; the girl looked upon her as the
worst enemy of her Ufe. They did not draw
together ; no real intimacy resulted from their
intercourse. Mrs. Fairboume's air was always of
well-bred tolerance when it was not faintly con-
temptuous ; Rosabel did not even try to be com-
panionable. Neither of them ever forgot for a
moment that the bond between them was that of
They might have gone on indefinitely in this
way if something in the nature of a thmider-bolt
had not startled Mrs. Fairboume into realizing the
precariousness of all things human, particularly a
It was the eve of their departure from London,
and she and Aylmer were alone in the drawing-
* I am glad we are going to-morrow,' he said.
' Rosabel wants a change. She isn't used to London.
The girl begins to look fine-drawn.'
' Rosabel !' exclaimed Mrs. Fairboume. * Why,
she has the shoulders of a dragoon and the appetite
of a navvy !'
He found her coarse for once, and showed dis-
* She may be a strong and healthy girl,' he said ;
' all the better. One naturally longs to see her
keep her health and develop into a splendid woman
— ^as she would do with wholesome surroimdings
His voice dwelt upon the final word as though
calling her attention to it.
' A splendid animal, you mean,' she said.
* Not at all,' he repHed, with the deliberation of
a man who utters what has been in his mind for
some time. * I begin to get tired of the attitude —
the pose, shall I say ? — of the set we live in. Isn't
it trivial ? Isn't it rather imwholesome ? I am
certain it is a bore ! We judge people's value in
the scheme of creation solely by the books they
write, the pictures they paint, the music they com-
pose, their successes on the stage, or their mere
ability to criticise, and — to criticise the critics.
As though nothing else mattered ! Whereas it is
everything else that matters. The importance of
art is absurdly overrated. The world could do
without jam, but it couldn't do without bread and
' Man cannot live by bread alone !' she retorted
' Granted. Jam is pleasant — ^in the proper pro-
portion, but a surfeit of it makes one sick, and leaves
one still imsatisfied.'
' And you are — sick ?' she queried.
' Precisely. I crave for the bread — good, whole-
some farmhouse bread, and milk, and fresh air,
and nature !'
' Oh, you renegade !' she cried.
' Let a man pass his life in ploughing fields rather
than in splitting hairs, and a woman take more
interest in her children than in the higher culture.'
' Have you fallen a prey to a militant parson, or
what is the matter with you to-day ?' she asked.
' You with your collection of antique weapons,
your cabinets of old china, your shelf of bibelots !
I shall tell everybody ! Don't imagine that I shall
She carried off the chagrin his thrust had caused
her magnificently ; she had plenty of pluck— or
the mask which is always at the service of the
woman of the world.
' One wastes a lot of money,' he said reflectively.
' I think I shall sell my works of art, and with the
proceeds found a mission for the conversion to
nature of the artists and critics of London. As for
Rosabel, I should Uke to see her the mistress of a
comfortable coimtry house, with horses to ride, and
dogs to play with, and children — yes, children to
bring up. She would make an ideal wife and mother.'
' Why, may I ask ?'
' Because she has a heart,' he said, ' and she
hungers for what she has never had — something to
' You seetn to know a great deal about Rosabel's
feelings !' said Mrs. Fairboume. ' More than I do.
When has she been talking to you ?'
' We have had a few opportimities,' he repUedf
' which we have made the most of.'
' So I perceive.'
She tried to answer lightly, but the effort was
an act of heroism. A storm was upon her, and she
had been too preoccupied to obser\'e how the clouds
When the door closed behind him at last, and she
was alone, a soimd broke from her like that of a deep
breath long withheld.
* Can he be taking a fancy to Rosabel ?' she asked
herself. ' Incredible !'
It really seemed incredible to her, with her con-
tempt for the girl. Nevertheless, it might be, and
the suspicion rankled in her mind.
After all, men were much alike. The best of
them asked for nothing more than flesh, pink and
white flesh, and plenty of it.
Wounded vanity and jealousy made her heart
bum. She loved him, and he was looking over her
shoulder at Rosabel ! She had been so sure of him,
and his eyes were wandering ; the old ideals were
being dethroned. He was becoming restless,
seeking something new. His attention must be
reclaimed. She would not give him up. The mor-
tification of knowing that he had even faltered was
And for Rosabel ! Rosabel, the girl she had
scorned, and been ashamed of acknowledging as
her daughter ! Rosabel, brought up by a publican's
wife in a village inn !
Perhaps he was merely in a bad temper this after-
noon. No man with any pretence to civilization
could be serious in comparing her imfavourably
with Rosabel. His mood would pass, no doubt,
assisted by a little tact on her part. If she could
only get the girl safely married to somebody — ^any-
body else without loss of time ! George Bellamy
must be given another chance.
' I'll take a country house for a month, and ask
hun down,' she determined. * There is nothing like
a country house.'
Meanwhile, she made her first move — after
dinner, when she was quite cool, and no longer
afraid that temper would betray her.
' Do you like Mr. Aylmer, Rosabel ?'
' Yes, I like him.'
' You have talked to him a great deal, haven't
you ? You seem to have been more confidential
with him than you have been with me ! I thought
you had nothing to say for yourself, but that seems
to be a mistake ; you can talk when you consider it
worth while ! Probably you find men better com-
pany than women ?'
* No,' said Rosabel brusquely. ' Some people are
nice, and some people aren't. I don't see that sex
makes any difference.'
' But it is natural that you should feel flattered
by the notice of a man of the world. I am very
pleased that he takes the trouble to draw you out.
I was thanking him this afternoon for being so kind
Rosabel looked down.
' What I want to say to you,' pursued her mother,
' is that you must not allow his attention to make
you vain. I know how easily girls deceive them-
selves, and you, in particular, have had so little
experience of the right sort. You must not forget
that he is a great deal older than you, and regards
you as a child, as my daughter.'
The girl's brows lowered.
' Of course,' added Mrs. Fairboume, with em-
phasis, ' he is my very best friend. It is natural
that he should take the deepest interest in you. I
was acting upon his advice, indeed, when I sent for
you. He thought it was a pity that we should not
be together. His disposition is not poor George's
— so absurdly jealous. He is always reasonable.
You understand ?'
' Yes,' murmured Rosabel.
Mrs. Fairboume knew when to leave well alone.
She had said enough to put an end to any dan-
gerous ideas his S5anpathy might have aroused in
Rosabel's head without giving the girl anything to
In a few minutes Rosabel got up silently and left
the room. |P|
' Of course,' she thought, ' he is going to marry
her ! Why didn't I suspect it before ?'
She could believe now that she had been foolishly
dense, and that she ought to have known why he
came to Great Cumberland Place so much oftener
them anyone else. Her mother was still a young
woman, and a clever, smart, and charming woman.
Nobody could be readier to admit that than Rosabel.
She remembered that they had been together the
first time she saw them ; and, looking back, she cov ' '
Digitized by VjOOQIC
recall many signs of a mutual attachment. WhUe
she had been priding herself upon his interest, in
fact, he had been merely looking kindly upon her
mother's daughter. She had her mother to thank
for the reflected honour of his attention*
I Bitter humiliation and grief overwhelmed her.
* I know how easily girls deceive themselves.'
The lightly-spoken words stung her to the quick.
She could not bear to think of them. She could
scarcely bear to go on living. Perhaps even Aylmer
was laughing at her. He would be her stepfather
by-and-by, but a kinder stepfather than Mr. Fair-
bourne, who was so ' absurdly jealous ' ! This man's
^ disposition ' was better ; he would not begrudge
her a share of her mother's roof.
Yes, it was fortimate that the dreams had only
been dreams, and that she had never reckoned on
Nevertheless, she felt desolate and wept miserably,
as though she had lost something which she could
never regain, and no longer anticipated her visit to
the coimtry with pleasure. Of course, Alec Aylmer
had been asked on purpose to oblige her mother.
Everybody knew what she had been too stupid to
perceive. In future she would have to regard him
in quite another light — ^as a prospective stepfather !
That was too much. He could not be such a great
deal older than she was ; he looked a yoimg man.
She wondered, a little maliciously, if his age were
not more suited to her own than to her mother's^
Aylmer was to meet them at the station, and they
were to travel down to Hertfordshire together. If
Rosabel could have stayed at home alone, without
any questions being asked, she would have preferred
it. As that was impossible, she was ready when the
brougham came roimd in the morning with the
station basket on the roof. It might have comforted
her if she had known what pangs of anxiety lay
half acknowledged beneath her mother's assumption
of high spirits.
Rosabel barely glanced at Aylmer when he shook
hands with her, and on the journey she sat in
the farthest comer, and looked steadily out of
the window. She would be polite if he spoke
to her, but she would never allow him to lure her
into any more confidences. He ought to have
warned her. She must have offended him imcon-
sciously several times with her remarks about her
In the course of the journey he offered her the
Sketch, and at the little country station, where Mrs.
Harrowby met them, he seemed to remember that
she might be feeling neglected while the women
greeted each other with the warmth of intimate
' Do you like old country houses, Rosabel ? You
are going to see a perfect gem of its kind. Mr.
Harrowby is a famous painter, and wherever you
look there is something beautiful.'
' I don't know much about works of art.'
' But you have good natural taste ; I have
' I don't see how you can think so. I used to
dress very badly,' she said antagonistically. ' I
hadn't a notion. Mother said so, and she was
* You learn quickly. It is all a matter of educa-
' Yes, education. And I haven't any. Knowing
how to read and write and spell, and where Siam is
on the map, isn't education !'
* You have already learned something when you
have learned that. Some people go through their
lives without knowing it.'
She turned her face away.
* I ought to have been drowned when I was bom,
like the puppies which aren't worth keeping.'
' What is this, Rosabel ?'
Rosabel did not reply. She was choking with
mingled emotions, in which that of a persistent
sense of inferiority was the most marked. If any-
one had addressed her, she would have burst into
May Harrowby was speaking as they all got into
the landau. She was a long-limbed woman, aesthe-
tically attired, whose arched mouth and large,
mournful eyes were frequently reproduced upon her
' By the way, Amy, the eighth member of our
party is an acquaintance of yours,' she said. ' I
asked him at the last moment instead of Jack
Stirling, who couldn't come — Maurice Braithwaite.'
* Braithwaite,' repeated Mrs. Fairboume vaguely.
' Don't you remember ? A big fair fellow, a
Philistine, but rather good fim. Coimty, I believe.
A friend of the Gledhows. He has a place called
Hallowdene somewhere in Bucks.'
* Yes, of course,' said Mrs. Fairboume. ' Rosabel
knows him better than I do.'
She was annoyed, but concealed it. Rosabel was
also annoyed. It seemed as though she would
never shake him off.
' He arrives with the Gledhows by the next train,'
added Mrs. Harrowby, happily imconscious of her
Aylmer had behaved so well on the way down that
Mrs. Fairboume was reassured. Surely she was
mistaken after all, and he would be surprised and
amused at a mere suggestion that he could take
Rosabel seriously ?
Even when Harrowby was showing them the
grounds, and Aylmer waited for Rosabel, the act,
as he performed it, seemed one of mere politeness.
He was always a gentleman, and could not leave
the girl to follow alone. Perhaps he had realized
that he had been tactless yesterday, and was anxious
to atone. She did not mean to be harsh to him.
The clever woman knows when to overlook a fault
and hold her tongue.
She bloomed joyously in the sunshine. If Rosa-
bel was the pink rosebud, she was the white rose —
in full flower, perhaps, but not at all faded. She
felt self-satisfied, self-confident, secure once more.
Tea was brought into the sitting-hall when they
re-entered, and a few minutes later the other guests
arrived. Again Rosabel found herself shaking hands
with Maurice Braithwaite, who greeted her mis-
' The fates are kind to me,' he said.
' You are everywhere,' she said.
* Do say you are glad to see me !'
She tossed her head, emd he dropped into a chair
beside her, as Mrs. Harrowby handed him his tea,
and whispered low :
' When, Rosabel ?'
' Never — ^never — ^never !' she answered in the
* Yes, you will. It must be. There's luck in the
third meeting. Don't you know that I am to be
your fate ?'
He only spoke in jest, to get a ' rise,' as he would
have called it, out of the girl ; but she stared at him
with sudden imeasiness, as though the suggestion
had alarmed her.
' You are so fond of talking nonsense, Mr. Braith-
waite ! You, a married man !'
' Do you think it is only bachelors who can be
fooUsh ? I may get a divorce, you know.'
' I don't care whether you do or not. It would
be fortunate, I think, for your wife.'
' How unkind you are I Don't you call me a nice
* No,' she said emphatically. * Horrid — ^perfectly
* That isn't your real opinion I You are afraid of
making me vain.'
He laughed aloud at her gaze of indignation, and
Mrs. Fairboume glanced across at them. Braith-
waite, she perceived, was drawn to the girl. It was
a pity that he was married. She was surprised to
find that Rosabel was attractive to men, and to such
various men as Alec Aylmer, George Bellamy, and
Maurice Braithwaite. What could they see in her ?
Had her brusque indifference, almost amounting to
rudeness, the fascination of sour grapes ?
When they went up to dress for dinner she called
Rosabel into her room.
The girl came, reluctant as usual, and waited like
a child summoned by the schoolmistress for repri-
mand. Her mother never wsmted her, she was
aware, for any agreeable reason.
* It is most imfortimate,' said Mrs. Fairboume
fretfully, ' that Mr. Braithwaite should be here. I
hope he will have the tact not to mention par-
ticulars of your acquaintance. You might give
him a hint.'
' I don't see how I can do that,' replied Rosabel.
' Why not ? You are friendly enough with
' I don't mind his talking about it,' said the girl.
' Making a secret of things doesn't alter them.'
* / object !' said Mrs. Fairboume sharply. ' There
is no occasion to argue.'
Digitized by VjOOQIC
' Then will you tell him ?' suggested Rosabel.
The colour rose to Mrs. Fairboume's cheeks. She
turned to the dressing-table.
' You are the most obstinate, ill-tempered girl I
ever met ! I wish I had left you at home !
Why should I consider you ? You never consider
' I didn't know you were considering me, mother,'
said Rosabel. ' I thought you only supposed that
remarks would be made if you left me at home. I
can go back to-morrow if you Uke.'
' I am much obliged for your kind permission,'
responded Mrs. Fairboume sarcastically. ' I will
think about it.'
She rang for her maid.
Rosabel waited in silence for a moment.
' Do you want me any longer, please ?'
The girl went to her room. It was apparent to
her that the relationship between her and her mother
was growing more strained every day. Mrs. Fair-
boume no longer even troubled to disguise her irrita-
tion when she was irritated, or her anger when she
was angry. The ' speaking out ' stage had arrived,
and it boded ill for the peace of the household.
As usual, Rosabel's toilet was soon accomplished,
and she was alone in the hall when Maurice Braith-
waite entered. To her annoyance, he expressed an
exaggerated delight at the fact.
* Now,' he said, * is the very opportunity we have
been seeking so long !'
* I don't know what you mean,' she declared with
* Don't you, Rosabel ? Shall I whisper ?'
' Certainly not.'
' I mean to have it before I leave The Hermitage.'
Rosabel walked to the long, low, latticed window,
and sat down on the seat. Braithwaite followed
' If I were our good friend Harrowby, I would
paint you sitting there. You are improving every
day, Rosabel. I thought the change was wonderful
when I saw you at Folkestone ; but now your beauty
dazzles my eyes and bewilders my brain.'
' I suppose you can't help being like this,' said
the girl, with quaint resignation, folding her hands
in her lap. ' But it is most objectionable for the
people who are obliged to listen to you.'
He laughed, greatly amused.
* At last you are finding your tongue. It was the
one thing necessary to make you a charming Uttle
' You know I'm not charming,' she said fiercely,
' and I do hate '
' But you are blushing.'
' I'm not !'
Rosabel turned her cheeks away< and looked out
of the window.
* I never saw a better imitation, then. Don't be
angry with me/ He sat down on the window-seat,
too, looking handsome in his white shirt-front and
dress-dothes. ' Don't you really like my chaff ?'
' Then I'll try to drop it. But you get so angry
that it's a temptation. You were always angry
with me in the old days ; do you remember ? That
last time I saw you, for instance, at the Angler's
* I haven't forgotten it,' said Rosabel resent-
* You've snubbed me without mercy half a dozen
times, but I bear no malice.'
His impudence left her speechless. Without being
downright rude, it was impossible, she felt, to find
an adequate retort.
At that moment trailing draperies descended the
staircase, and the hostess appeared.
' I shall wear this next my heart for ever as a
token of your regard for me,' Braithwaite added,
snatching up a httle lace-bordered handkerchief
which Rosabel had dropped.
* Give it back at once !' she cried.
* Never, never !' he added, mimicking the tone in
which she had refused him the kiss, 'imtil you
buy it !'
He slipped it into his pocket, and rose, laughing,
but not before Mrs. Harrowby's soulful eyes had
taken note of every detail of the little scene — ^his
proximity to Rosabel on the window-seat, the steal-
ing of the handkerchief, and the low-voiced, urgent
intercourse, all arguing a pretty considerable fami-
liarity between the girl and the man.
She approached with rather a curious little
' You were quick over your dressing, Rosabel.'
' Yes ; I never take long,' replied Rosabel inno-
cently, imconscious of the innuendo.
* Where is your mother ?'
' She will be down presently.'
Mrs. Harrowby sent her in to dinner with Braith-
waite. She had already arranged it in her mind,
and could not alter her plans. Besides, it was Amy
Fairboume's place to look after her daughter. She
thought she would make a remark in private, never-
theless, if she saw any more : she was not a bad
sort of woman ; and over the table she glanced
several times at Rosabel.
On each occasion, as it happened, Braithwaite was
talking in an imdertone to the girl, and Rosabel was
allowing him to monopolize her ; firstly because he
was her partner, and she understood that he was
entitled to her attention ; secondly, because Aylmer
was on the other side of her, and she had her reasons
for not wishing to talk to him ; lastly, because no-
body, except Aylmer, took any notice of her as a
rule ; and although she thought very little of Maiuice
Braithwaite, it was pleasanter to be entertained
than to be left sitting silent and neglected at the
table. She was even grateful to him for showing
her mother and the other women — ^yes, and Aylmer
— that a man who did not come from the Australian
backwoods was willing to notice her for his own
pleasure, not out of mere kindness. In future they
might not treat her with quite such a lack of cere-
mony, and Aylmer would see that she could be
agreeable if she chose.
So she melted somewhat towards Braithwaite, and
smiled at his jokes, and tried not to be angry at his
impertinence. And when he proposed a stroll in
the garden after dinner she assented, but was glad
that one of the men came along and bore him off to
the billiard-room instead.
She did not go indoors herself. It was pleasanter
in the sweet-scented garden, and she seated her-
self in a big basket chair on the lawn, and
watched the clouds floating across the star-lit
Presently voices reached her. Two women's
figures were crossing the lawn, and as they ap-
proached Rosabel recognised her mother and Mrs.
* Shall we sit here ?* asked the hostess. * Or
would you rather stroll ?'
* It looks comfortable here.'
They did not see Rosabel, and the girl did not
speak or move. A couple of chairs creaked on the
other side of the tree.
' Yes,' said Mrs. Harrowby, as though resuming
a conversation already begun, ' I see a great improve-
ment. You are dressing her charmingly, my dear,
and she seems to have much more to say for herself
than when I dined with you five weeks ago. Pro-
bably she was shy.'
* I beUeve she lived very quietly with her father's
people,* responded Mrs. Fairboume cautiously.
She was wondering how much Maurice Braith-
waite had told about Rosabel. May Harrowby, on
the other hand, was smiling with bitter sweetness
in the dark, and asking herself why she troubled
to do a good turn to a woman so imcandid as ' dear
Amy.' She pursued her course, nevertheless, be-
cause she was well-intentioned, and also because her
mind was too slow-moving for a change of tactics on
' I was noticing her with Maurice Braith-
waite,' she pursued. ' Has she seen much of
* I don't think so ; that is to say, I don't know,'
replied Mrs. Fairboume imeasily. * Why ?'
*They seem to be such excellent friends. I happened
to find them alone in the hall when I came down
before dinner — ^both on the window-seat. He stole
her handkerchief, and kept it. If he were eligible,
now ! It does seem a pity. Evidently he admires
her, and he is simply rolling. Of course, she knows
that he has a wife ?'
* I suppose so.*
* I should find out, my dear. One cannot be loo
careful with a girl. And he is an awful rake, poor
dear fellow! Perhaps it was indiscreet to ask
' Not at all,' said Mrs. Fairboume. She quite
understood the warning given to her. * But it's
very good of you to mention it. If there is any
nonsense, it is all on his side, and he is merely
taking advantage of her inexperience. Rosabel
doesn't care for men.'
* Really ?' The languid voice was also a little
* I'll soon stop it,' said Mrs. Fairboume resolutely,
growing sincere. ' What cheek of him !' *
' If she were a married woman it wouldn't matter,
of course,' murmured her friend, * but he might be
putting another man off— a serious man. It's too
bad. Shall I ask a boy to play with her, and keep
her out of mischief ?'
* May,' said Mrs. Fairboume solemnly, * you are a
great and noble woman.'
The artist's wife laughed.
•There's Roger,' she said. * Twenty-two years
old, six feet in his stockings, blue eyes and curly
hair ; son of old Sir Herbert Essendene, our next-
door neighbour. He shall come and spend the day.'
' You shall be blessed for this a thousand-fold !'
* ril go in and Mrrite a note to him now, before it
gets too late,* said Mrs. Harrowby, rising. * What
are the men doing ? I'm thirsty. Wouldn't you
like a little B. and S. ?'
The ladies moved away together, the best of
friends, and silence held the place of their low
voices and soft laughter and the rustling of many
Rosabel was undressing, and had just taken her
hair down, when somebody knocked at the door.
She unlocked it, and found her mother outside.
Mrs. Fairboume came in.
' I did not know you were going to bed,' she said.
' I am tired,' said Rosabel, averting her face, and
beginning to ply the hair-brush again. ' I said good-
night to Mrs. Harrowby. She excused me.'
It was a curious fact that Mrs. Fairboume had
never seen Rosabel with her hair down before. She
had lovely hair. The woman who was her mother
admitted it at once. She noted, too, the firm, white,
well-moulded flesh of the girl's shoulders. Her
evening dresses should be cut lower in future —
' Where have you been all the evening ?*
' In the bilUard-room and the garden.'
' Talking to Mr. Braithwaite ?'
' Yes — and others.'
Mrs. Fairboume sat down on the edge of the bed.
' You can go on undressing, as you are tired,'
163 II— 2
Digitized by VjOOQIC
she said. * Rosabel, do you know that Mr. Braith-
waite is married ?'
* Of course I do,' responded Rosabel.
The rose-coloured shades of the candlesticks on
the dressing-table threw a glow over her face.
' One would not think so from the manner you
allow him to adopt towards you. He is too famiUar.
It looks bad. Remarks have been made already.'
Rosabel's mechanical performance with the hair-
brush ceased. She confronted her mother.
* I know all about it,' she said. ' I heard you and
Mrs. Harrowby talking in the garden.'
* You heard ?'
* I was in the big chair.'
' Eavesdropping, Rosabel !'
' I didn't know you were going to talk about me.
I couldn't help hearing, and then I didn't like to
* You behaved very badly.'
* I wasn't hiding,' said the girl sullenly. ' And I
was there first. Why didn't you see me ?'
Mrs. Fairboume made an impatient gesture.
' As it happens,' she said, ' it is of no consequence.
You have only heard what I was going to tell
* I didn't give him the handkerchief,' said Rosabel.
* He took it.'
' You should have demanded it back instantly,
and shown him that you were offended if he did
not return it. Instead, you let him talk to you all
Rosabel ceased to defend herself, and returned
to her toilet.
' I am not finding fault with you for the sake
of finding fault,' continued her mother sharply, * and
I am not a prude. But you are inexperienced,
and you must be told, although I know you don't
like it. I dare say you think you are plajang the
woman of the world with Braithwaite, but you
are making a mistake. There is something between
behaving like a wooden doll — ^which I don't want
you to do, goodness knows! — ^and attracting too
much notice. It's the wrong sort of notice. Nobody
could object to your accepting attention from an
eligible man, but Braithwaite is the worst sort of
married man, and he is not going to make a pastime
of my daughter while I am here to prevent it.'
The girl looked at her mother with sudden
*Are you afraid that I shall fall in love with
him ?' she asked.
' I don't think you would be such a fool,' said
Mrs. Fairboume, * but that isn't the question.
You must remember, Rosabel, that you have to
be even more careful, with your past, than the
average girl. Unfortunately, this Braithwaite knows
all about you, and it will be said that he is only
renewing an old acquaintance. What you have
to remember, and what he must be made to re-
member, is that you are My Daughter * — she spoke
in capitals — ' and that he cannot treat you like a
^ I was a barmaid,' said Rosabel.
* That is why I have to teach you how to behave
yourself,' replied her mother. * It should not be
necessary. You ought to be able to perceive
when a man's attention means respectful admiration
or impudence. To encourage, or even to condone,
the latter by silence argues a vulgar mind. For
God's sake, don't be vulgar, Rosabel ! I am afraid
that you must have permitted him a great deal
of latitude formerly, or he would not dare to remind
you by a look that you met imder other circvun-
stances. Anyhow, he is a blackguard, and the less
you have to do with him the better.'
Rosabel poured water out of the jug in silence.
' You cannot take it too much to heart that
the least whisper, in your case, would be fatal.
Nobody would want to marry you. And I am
very anxious to see you well married. It would
be a great relief.'
The girl gave her an odd bright glance before
bending over the basin to sponge her face.
Mrs. Fairboume was meditating.
' It should be someone who knew nothing,' she
added, uttering her thoughts aloud. *Some nice
young feUow near your own age.'
* The boy next door ?' asked Rosabel.
Was it possible that she was sarcastic ? Mrs.
Fairboume stared incredulously at the profile of
Rosabel*s rounded cheek, and her colour mounted
* Oh, you heard that too ! Yes, anyone —
anyone! she said, * as long as he was a gentleman,
and I need b€ no longer responsible for you !'
In the pause that followed the stable dock
struck twelve. The regular slow chiming seemed
to emphasize the stillness of the house, and the
faint rustle of the ivy at the window succeeded
it Uke the whispering of an unseen ghostly chorus
on a matter of moment urgently discussed.
Mrs. Fairboume aroused herself.
* So late !' She rose, yawning. Her composure
was restored. ' I thought it wise to warn you.
The world is censorious. It is only a married woman
who can afford to play with fire. Good-night, my
* Good-night/ said Rosabel.
She relocked the door. Her face looked hot,
and her eyes still wore the curious expression with
which she had regarded her mother just now.
She finished undressing, and got into bed, but
left the candle alight beside her, and sat up staring,
her chin on her knees.
Once more there was silence, silence, as of a
world asleep. The flame of the candle flickered.
the shadows played hide-and-seek among the
window curtains, and again the i\y whispered a
message, persistently, as though it could wait no
longer for its will to be fulfilled.
Rosabel listened, translating slowly, tmderstand-
ing dimly, like a child following a language still
strange, and her heart beat fast.
' She doesn't care for you, only for herself —
herself — herself,' the voices whispered. * You might
be as miserable as you hked as long as nothing
occurred to disgrace her, and nobody knew.'
The meaning of the whispers became dearer.
' It is only fear of a scandal that could bring
home to her what she has done. She never pro-
tected you ; she left you exposed to the vulgar
temptations of a public-house. If you had fallen
then she would not have cared. Nobody knew
you — you could have dropped in obscurity like an
autumn leaf. But now, for money, she has intro-
duced you to the world as her daughter, and your
actions reflect upon her pride, and your disgrace
would be hers. So she is anxious about you for
her own sake, just as she was anxious formerly to
hide you in some comer out of the way.'
The voices became articulate. At last Rosabel
heard what she had been straining to hear tmcon-
sciously since she came to Great Cumberland
' Suppose you were really what you might have
been ? Suppose her false pride and heartlessness
found its due punishment ?'
Something seemed to crack in the girl's brain
and admit a flash like hghtning, and all the anguish,
the resentment, the yearning aspirations which
for years had filled her breast to the point of
bursting, culminated in that illumination of mind
with the passionate thrilling foretaste of a possible
If that harvest should be reaped which had been
Breakfast was a movable feast at The Hermitage.
It was on the table from eight till ten, and people
made their own tea or poured out their own coffee,
and selected from covered silver dishes kept hot
by an arrangement of spirit lamps on the sideboard.
Maurice Braithwaite, descending on the stroke
of nine, found an empty room, and windows standing
wide to the scented sunshine.
He took some fish and coffee. Among the letters
on a side-table he found a couple for himself, and
opened them with the careless air of an unburdened
mind. He had no bills, and there was nobody in
the world he cared twopence about, his wife included.
He looked clean and smart in a gray suit and white
tie, and he seated himself leisurely at the table with
his cup and plate, and reached for the roUs.
Then something came between him and the
sunlight, and, glancing up, he saw Rosabel at the
' 'Morning, Rosabel.'
She entered, bare-headed, her straw hat in her
hand, treading with a certain light cautiousness
like a young cat, her eyes fixed warily on him.
There was something unusual in her manner this
morning, something he could not define, which
made him watch her across the room as he had
caught her watching him from the window.
' Have you had breakfast ?'
' No,* said Rosabel dehberately. * I waited for
' Did you ?' He gave a little laugh of mingled
surprise and amusement. ' Now I call that real
friendly ! In return, I'll get you your breakfast.'
' Oh, don't trouble,* said Rosabel.
' I'U wait upon you for a change !' he said.
* Sit here beside me. What will you have ? I
recommend the fish.'
She seated herself at the table, while he rose to
wait on her. What would they have said at the
Angler's Inn ?
* Been up long ?' he asked.
* Half an hour.'
' You're hungry, then ? And you waited for me !'
He laughed again. ' Good girl !'
* I guessed you would be late,' she said.
* Why ?'
' Oh, you are the sort of person who would be,
I think, unless you had something very nice to do.'
* Such as talking to you !' he supplemented,
' I would have got up earlier if I'd known. Let
us have breakfast together every morning, shall we,
' If you hke,* she said. * But I want mine at
eight, as a rule, not at nine.'
* I'll get up at eight, too, if you insist ; but can't
you make it half-past ?'
* Very wq|1, half-past eight.'
There waii a glimmer of a smile on her face.
His eyes sought hers, and held them.
' I am still wearing your handkerchief next my
heart,' he said, and stowed her a comer. ' Look !'
'That's silly,' said the girl with composure,
* because you are not in love with me.'
' I am — madly in love with you !'
* But it isn't at all proper that you should be,'
* Do let me forget my wife for ten minutes.
Are you tr5dng to take away my appetite, you cruel
^ I think you are making fun of me,' she said.
* And I don't like people who make fun of me.'
He was still eating, but his attention was no longer
absorbed by trout and (Coffee. Again he was per-
plexed by that subtle something about her which
was new. In the moment that he paused to find
an answer it came to him. She was making a
step forward instead of a step back. If she were
still a little timid, she was also attracted— or merely
curious. In either case, her lure was intentional,
not unconscious. Yesterday she had shrunk from
him with indignation, this morning she held out
He admired her, and he was the last man in the
world to be restrained by decency. When nothing
was given him he begged ; if any woman gave him
an inch, he took an ell. He never forgot, of course,
where and how her life had been spent. It was
absurd to expect a prude to come out of the Angler's
Inn. She had wanted stirring up, as he had con-
cluded before, and, unconsciously, it seemed, he
had done the stirring up. He was gratified. Never
had so Uttle trouble promised a keener reward.
' Have some more trout, Rosabel ? No ? Fruit,
He gave her a dean plate, and took a peach
himself with a glance at the girl which was full of
' Do you like peaches, Rosabel ?*
' So do I,' he said. ' We all do. Only sometimes
they're green and bad for us, and sometimes other
people get the pick of the dish before we're down !
The thing is to be down early, eh ?'
* I don't know what you mean,' she saidi frowning
at him for the first time that morning.
* Peaches should be fresh and luscious,' he said^
* and with pink cheeks like yours. ... Is Aylmer
going to marry your mother ?' he added abruptly.
* They haven't told me.'
* Do you want a stepfather ?' he asked.
* I don't care.'
* She's a smart woman, your mother, but —
Lord ! he would be the third, wouldn't he ? A
plucky fellow, by Jove !'
' She didn't kill the other two,' said Rosabel,
prompted by a peculiar inconsistency to defend her
He laughed loudly.
* Bravo, Rosabel ! you are certainly finding your
tongue ! Let me pour you out some more coffee.'
They finished breakfast amicably, and Braith-
waite had strolled outside, lighting a cigarette,
while Rosabel lingered to pin on her hat, when
He smiled at the girl.
' You forgot our appointment !'
* What appointment ?' she asked.
* Weren't we going to take a walk before breakfast
on our first morning here ? I reminded you last
night. I expected you down at seven o'clock.
Did you oversleep yourself ?'
* No ; I didn't feel inclined to get up.'
' So you had breakfast all alone as a punishment !'
' I had it with Mr. Braithwaite,' she said.
Aylmer's brows contracted sharply.
At that moment the other man called her.
* Are you ready, Rosabel ?'
* Where are you going ?' asked Aylmer.
* Only into the garden.'
* May I come too ?' was on the tip of his tongue,
but he did not utter the question. Instead, he
turned away, and picked up a newspaper, and over
the edge of it watched her join Braithwaite.
Why it should enrage him to see them together
he did not know, but enrage him it did. He told
himself that he did not like Braithwaite, and that
he was an unfit companion for a yoimg girl. An
intimate acquaintance with the man's antecedents
was not necessary for his information. Braith-
waite's ' tone ' had been palpable enough in the
billiard-room last night. Even before that it had
been easy enough to gauge him.
Aylmer opened the newspaper, and read a
column. When he reached the bottom of it he
began again labouredly. Then his eyes wandered
with his thoughts.
* I shall speak to Amyi' he said aloud.
The sharp reminder of memory that Rosabel was
not fresh from the schoolroom or the convent,
and should have acquired a wide experience in
pecuUar circumstances, was singularly unwelcome
to him. The girl was no hothouse bloom, indeed.
She must have come into contact with a good
many men, and been left to sift the wheat from
the tares alone. And she had known Maurice
Braithwaite in those da}^. As a matter of fact, he
was her oldest acquamtance at The Hermitage, her
Aylmer snatched at the paper again, and read a
divorce case, a leader, and an advertisement for
somebody's pills, with the air of a judge.
'All the same, I thought she didn't like him,*
He was also conscious that he had hoped so. In
his estimation it soiled her natural cleanliness of
soul that she should be on friendly terms with a
man worse than second-rate. She ought to be
able to discriminate. He had given her credit for
At the back of his mind, too, was disappointment
that she had not thought it worth while to get up
for a walk with him, and had not even troubled
to excuse herself. He had had the idea that she
liked him, and wotdd take some pains to retain his
friendship. But the world was full of disappoint-
ments, and the man who thought that a girl had
been really sincere with him was probably a fool.
It was seldom that he was bitter, and presently
he felt that it was absurd to be offended. The
incident was not sufficiently important, and he
chose to look after her ; she should not be left alone
He put down the newspaper, and followed them^
He had it in his mind to warn her, at the first oppor-
tunity, against Braithwaite. She always seemed
to listen when he spoke to her. Of course, it was
her mother's place, but Amy
Again strong irritation awoke in him, this time
against Mrs. Fairboume. Really, there were duties
a woman owed to herself, and she was too casual.
She ought to care, and if she did not, decency would
He did not know that he wronged her in this
instance, and would not have cared to know. He
wanted a scapegoat — anyone instead of Rosabel.
When he came across the girl she was just stop-
ping to pick herself a rose. Braithwaite helped to
pin it in her dress, and their heads and hands
came close together. They seemed absorbed in
each other, and unconscious of observation, and a
reluctance to join them overtook Aylmer. He had
at least as much right to be with her as Braithwaite^
but that horror of being ridiculous, which is the
nightmare of the modem man, held him back with
chains. If Rosabel were to look surprised, if
Braithwaite were to smile sarcastically! He was
not her brother, nor her guardian, nor even her
stepfather. In fact, it was not in his power to
preserve her from undesirable friends.
He turned away without another glance, and
went indoors again. In the interval Gledhow, a
big, stout, red-faced man, had come down, and was
devouring ham and eggs with a horrible appetite.
Aylmer sat apart and watched him, for the
pleasure of contradicting every assertion he fired
off between mouthfuk, until the injured man
* You are in a fine temper this morning ! Had a
bill for breakfast ?'
* I in a temper ?* exclaimed Aylmer coolly.
' What an idea !'
* A beastly temper,* insisted Gledhow. * Have
some more breakfast.'
' No ; it is making me quite sick enough to watch
you. How a man, a normal civilized man, who
gets three meals a day every day of his life, should
be able to stoke like that directly he leaves his bed
is a marvel to me.'
Gledhow poured out more coffee, and put three
lumps of sugar in his cup with a seraphic smile.
* Perhaps you are in love,' he said.
* It is not astonishing that you grow fatter as
one looks at you. By-and-by you will be a huge
unwieldy object like a feather-bed, and you will
have to have a lift built in your house because you
can't walk upstairs.'
' Certainly it is love,' said Gledhow. * Pass the
Aylmer pushed the rack across the table.
' Love,' he repeated, meditating, * love ! You
are so sentimental, Bobby. I remember you wept
in a handkerchiel as big as a sheet last time
I took you to the theatre, and said you had a
* I've been savmg up to buy you a wedding-
present for ever so long,* said Gledhow, * and still
no httle cards come.*
Aylmer rose from the bottom of a well. His
tongue had been talking, not his brain.
' Eh ?* he queried vaguely.
* Oh, for the hot impetuous blood of youth !
You're fishy, that's what you are — ^fishy !' Gledhow
sniffed contempt. * You've got anaemic because
you don't believe in breakfast. By the time you are
niy age you'll be a dried-up, withered old bachelor.'
' What a splendid reader of character you are !'
said Aylmer. * You are wasting yourself on canvas
and paint. You ought to set up as a fortune-
teller in Bond Street.'
* Fishy,' repeated Gledhow, nodding. ' Ah, here
comes Mrs. Fairboume. I'm going to ask her if
she doesn't agree with me.'
' Go on,' he said.
* Is that a dare ?' murmured the other man<
' I don't know what you mean,' said Aylmer.
* You can go to the devil !'
All the women came in. They had breakfasted
upstairs, and Were ready for walking.
' The programme,' said Mrs. Harrowby, * is golf
for four, and fishing for three, I believe, till lunch.
What will the girl do, Amy ?'
' She can come with us to the golf course. Where
is she ?'
* I saw her in the garden with Braithwaite,' said
Mrs. Fairboume bit her lip, and went to the
* We^are all coming out,' said Mrs. Harrowby.
Aylmer fetched his hat. When he rejoined the
others on the lawn Rosabel and Braithwaite were
with them, and a rose — the flower which seemed so
intimately associated with Rosabel by name — ^was
in Braithwaite*s button-hole.
Something rapped Aylmer sharply on the heart.
He knew before he looked that Rosabel's rose
was gone, and that it was the identical one which
now adorned the man's coat. He must have asked
for it, and she had given it to him.
It was only a trifle, but the blood rushed to
Aylmer's head, and he felt hot ; it ebbed, and he
was white and a little shaky. He remembered
having just that sensation once when^ as a boy, a
woman had first looked at him. It made him
realize. . . .
The revelation was almost a shock. He stood
silent with a drumming in his ears. Yes, he was
jealous with the jealousy of passion. If he could
have had his way she should not have spoken to
another man. He wanted her all to himself — ^her
thoughts as well as her words, her eyes, her smiles.
And she was only a girl as other girls. There
was nothing so remarkable about her. She was
not a beauty, she was not clever; she had been
brought up in a way of which he disapproved
entirely — in a way which would have frightened off
many men ; at their first meeting he had scarcely
looked at her. Why was it ?
Already he knew that his feeling for her was
entirely different from anything the mother or any
other woman had ever inspired in him. He had
admired Amy Fairboume's elegance, her tact, her
cultivation, her knowledge of the worid ; Rosabel
had none of these things, and he loved her. He
was so keen that it made him boil to see her
walking and talking with Braithwaite. The rose
Braithwaite wore was like an insult to him, an
insult which he would have liked to revenge with
a blow ! He despised while he analyzed himself.
He had been so cool and cautious, as reluctant to
take a step forward as a cat on ice, and now he was
ready at a glance from a girl of nineteen to risk
But he must have the glance. He was not the
man to court a refusal. There would have to be
some assurance on her part. And at present it
seemed likely that he would have to wait a long
time for it. She was taking no notice of him to-day.
Digitized by VjOOQIC
She had even snubbed him. And the rose she had
picked was in Braithwaite's button-hole. Braith-
waite, who had no right whatever to expect it, was
the recipient of marked favour.
If she had been another girl he would have
called her a coquette, but he did not believe Rosabel
capable of any nonsense of that kind. Ai^ almost
brutal sincerity was hers by nature. When she
was hungry she ate, when she was tired she went
to bed, when she was pleased she smiled, when she
was angry she scowled. She could not play with
a man for mere amusement. Although Braith-
waite was out of the game, Aylmer feared that
she really cared for him, and grew exceedingly
bitter over such evidence of bad taste. He 4id not
say to himself in as many words, ' The girl who
is attracted by that animal cannot appreciate me,'
but he felt it. It would have pleased him to kick
Braithwaite out of The Hennitage gate.
A grimly humorous conception of his own
folly set him smiting at last. After all, time was
before him, and the vertigo which had attacked
his self-confidence passed over. He would wait
a bit. By-and-by she would timi to him again.
She did like him ; he was sure of that. The only
sa«e course would be to take no notice^ and welcome
her without conmient whenever she chose to come.
The state of his emotions did not put his hand
out for golf, at any rate, and he watched Rosabel,
who had chosen the players mstead of the fishers,
without perceptible concern. Braithwaite was
playing too ; was that why she had come ?
Sometimes she walked with him, but the greater
part of the morning she wandered alone with
self-absorbed face, picking wild flowers, or resting
on the grass, while the sun kissed her roimd peachy
face to a still warmer glow.
Aylmer crossed a meadow to speak to her at last.
His manner was as usual, betraying no imder-
current of any kind even to Mrs. Fairboume's
' Are you weaving daisy-chains, Rosabel ?'
' I left off doing that when I was ten years old,'
she said, looking up with the sun in her eyes.
* Day-dreams, then, the privilege of maiden-
She flushed. He noticed that her lashes and
her hair were golden in the brilliant bath of light.
* Who is winning ?* she asked.
' Your friend Braithwaite is doing very well.*
' He says he is good at all sports.*
' Does he ?* Aylmer was bitter. * Probably he
devotes his life to them.'
* Is he beating you ?'
The question was so singularly pointed that he
flinched. But she looked innocent.
*At present he seems to have the advantaga,
* I shouldn't play games unless I had a good
chance,' she said. ^ I should hate being beaten.'
* That's a spirit which leads to jealousy and
endless strife and discontent.'
* I can't help it, I've got it,' said the girl, locking
her hands round her knee as she sat on the grass.
* I am jealous, and I should like always to be first.'
She knew herself ; she had got it. The heaviness
of the lower part of her face, the determined set
of her lips, the straight brows on the broad forehead,
the fire of mingled defiance and resentment a word
could kindle in her eyes, the dehberation with which
she spoke when she spoke at all, were indelible signs
*In fact, you want your own way,' he said,
*and are ready to hate everyone who won't let
you have it !'
* Yes,' she admitted.
* And your self-depreciation is a form of vanity.
If people won't think you first-rate, you turn sulky,
and pretend that you don't care what they think,
and would rather have nothing at all to do with
them ! You will give all or nothing, receive all or
nothing; be everything, or let yourself go, and
refuse to make the best of the gifts you have.'
Rosabel stared at him ; her mouth opened.
' Is that true ?'
* Y — yes. How did you know ?'
* I am very wise !' said Aylmer.
* Do you ever talk like this to mother ?' she in-
' Why don't you ?'
* She wouldn't appreciate it.'
The girl plucked a blade of grass to nibble.
* You are the only woman I ever met,' he added,
* who would admit her faults !'
* And yet you said I was vain !' Rosabel was
' So you are, but you have counteracting qualities
rare in your sex. You are absolutely truthful,
and you have a logical mind. With such a com-
bination of virtues one ought to be able to trust
you not to do anything foolish.'
* How — foolish ?' she queried.
* Oh, any of the usual things done by girls who
are weak, and sentimental in the wrong way, and
silly. For instance, you wouldn't ' He checked
himself on the verge of saying * run away with a
groom,' and substituted : ' You wouldn't throw
your life away on a drunkard, a profligate, a thief.
And you wouldn't think it was amusing and smart to
start a vulgar flirtation with a fast man you did not
mean to marry — or a man who already had a wife.'
Rosabel's cheeks flamed. Her lids drooped,
then lifted again. She regarded him steadily with
*A girl of that sort doesn't attract envy or
admiration, whatever she may imagine,' he pursued
quietly. ' Women sneer and men smile — ^unkindly
in both cases. I should never feel uneasy about
* Of course you needn't,' she said. * I don't
matter to you.'
* That is a mistake. I should be sorry to see
anyone make a fool of you — ^and sorrier still to see
you make a fool of yourself.'
* On mother's account, of course !'
* On your own account as weU.'
Rosabel tugged at another grass-stalk, wrenching
it up by the root, and bent her head over it as she
picked it to pieces with shaky hands.
' Nobody will ever make a fool of me,' she said
* I am sure not. Have I not said that I think
you are sensible and trustworthy ?'
* You only pretend to think so.'
* What a sceptic you are !'
' Oh, I know,' she said darkly.
* What do you know ?'
She would not answer or look up, and he was
called at that moment back to the game.
But as he left her Rosabel looked after him
under her thick lashes with a resentftd air.
* Of course mother set him on me,' she thought.
* And I didn't guess at first ! I let him talk,'
She hated herself for the stupidity of plajdng
into his hands. He would carry away the idea
that she had been impressed by his remarks, and
her mother would be pleased. Did he imagine
that she could not see through his affected spon-
taneity, and understand the motive which had
brought him strolling so carelessly to her side ?
The glow in her cheeks deepened as she mused.
Once more he had forced the armour of her reserve,
and got something, if ever so little, for his pains.
She had decided to keep him outside like the rest,
to range him with her mother on the other side,
he who was her mother's friend, and again he had
taken her unawares, and she had been herself with
It should never happen again. He should not
influence her. She had made up her mind last
night as she lay staring at the dark, and when once
Rosabel knew her own mind she could display a
strength and tenacity of purpose almost terrible
in a girl so young.
Nothing escaped Mrs. Fairboume's eyes. She had
seen Aylmer's tendency to wander towards Rosabel
that morning, and their earnest if brief conversa-
tion, arid made a determined effort to capture her
errant knight that afternoon when the question of
driving cropped up.
There was a landau, and a dog-cart, and the
governess-car belonging to the children, therefore
everybody could go who chose, and Mrs. Fairboume
marked the dog-cart for herself and Aylmer.
* I haven't handled the ribbons for years,' she
said, ' but I think I am equal to that quiet bay of
yours. May, and I feel energetic this afternoon.'
' Very well, dear,' said Mrs. Harrowby amiably.
' Will you take somebody ?'
' Mr. Aylmer, may I take you ?'
* Delighted,' he said. It was impossible to refuse.
' You are a brave man, by Jove !'
* What do you mean ?' she demanded a trifle
* To trust himself with you. That mare isn't so
* How rude you are !' she said, relieved.
* Would not a man risk death for the sake of
such fair company ?' asked Aylmer. * He is jealous,
dear lady, because you did not ask him. The
green-eyed monster is a disgusting reptile.'
' Disgusting yourself,' said Gledhow.
* Now, Bobby, Bobby, be pohte,' said his wife.
* Smack him, and send him to bed, Mrs. Gledhow,'
' He shan't have any sugar in his tea,' she
Gledhow got out a handkerchief and howled.
Rosabel thought they were all very silly. She
despised childishness as much as horse-play.
Tragedy she could imderstand, not comedy. A
sense of humour is one of the things which, like a
complexion, cannot be acquired at adult age.
The dog-cart came roimd, and Aylmer assisted
Mrs. Fairboume up, and moimted beside her. She
thought she had been very clever, but the ease
with which he had submitted was neither laziness
nor helplessness. He was quite aware of her state
of mind, and not a single manoeuvre on her part
escaped his notice. She had caught a tartar for
once. As she insisted upon a t&e-i-t&e, she should
pay for it.
The groom went with the landau ; they were
quite alone. When a country lane received them
in its green arms, Aylmer broke the silence.
' Your reins are too slack.'
She tightened them.
* Better. That is one of the faults of the amateur
— a commoner one than jagging the poor brute's
jaw. You want just to feel his mouth.'
* My heart is tender,' she said. * I like to allow
\ even a horse as much latitude as is good for him.'
* But over-indulgence spoils the child.'
• * They say so.'
' I have been talking to Rosabel,' he added, after
a pause. * Have you noticed anything ?'
* Noticed ?' she repeated. * What do you mean ?'
* Girls want advice sometimes,' he said.
She touched up the bay with the whip.
* But they don't know it, and sometimes they
won't take it !'
* She is very young.'
* And as obstinate as a mule !'
' I think you exaggerate,' he said coldly. ' She
only wants telling.'
' What ?'
*Not to be quite so pleasant to Braithwaite.
He is the wrong sort. He might misunderstand.'
' You, too !' she cried in a rage.
' Somebody else has mentioned it ?'
' May Harrowby, last night.'
' Then everybody has noticed already, and k is
not my fancy !'
*She is a little animal, that is the fact of
the matter!' declared Mrs. Fairboume furiously.
* What else could she be ? It is in the blood/
He turned white and red and white again.
* Why did you make me send for her ?' she asked.
' Why, on the contrary, did you ever send her
* You know I couldn't help it I'
* You might have had her four years ago. You
didn't want her.'
* I didn't. What then?'
*The girl has been shamefully neglected* In
spite of it she is wonderful.'
* Oh, ah ! I thought you were finding fault with
her a moment ago I'
* No ; I only suggested that youth and inexperience
was entitled to advice from experience and age.*
She flushed. Then she looked in his eyes, and
her anger was frightened away by his. A thrill
ran down her spine. She turned cold.
An awful silence fell. The ring of the hoofs on
the hard road seemed to her scarcely loud enough
to cover the beating of her heart.
She began to choke. When she dared to speak
at last her voice quivered with mortification and
nervousness and anguish at her enforced humility.
* I didn't know you had such a temper I'
He remained silent.
' I am quite frightened I*
' Indeed !' He was sardonically polite.
' I shall cry in a moment/ she said. ' Oh, Alec,
we have been such good friends ! You can't wish
to quarrel with me ?'
' There is nothing I desire less.'
' Then don't cut your words with a razor — ^and
call me by my name I'
* If you Uke — ^Amy.' ( *
' Now you are your old dear self again !'
He denied it mentally. But she declined to
perceive his lukewammess, deceived herself with
insincere jubilation, as she would deceive him,
shifted the reins to pat him on the arm with a
fluttering, caressing glove.
* It is annoying to be buUied when one is doing
one's best,' she added. * I have spoken to Rosabel.
Of course I shall look after her.'
' I am glad to hear it.'
* So we can talk about something else. Your
twelve himdred poimds, for instance. I have a
cheque for you in my pocket.'
' No hurry, you know.'
' There is nothing in the world so pleasant as
to be able to discharge one's debts. I am quite
flourishing now, and eyer so much obliged to you.
If I can be of use at any time, please — ^please do say.*
' Impossibki' he said.
* Do you mean that you could never want money,
or that you would not tell me if you did ?'
* You wouldn't give me the pleasure of doing
anything for you ! It is always the way. Men
can do without women — ^but women cannot do
*The proposition is not self-evident,' he said,
^ and your sex is not usually so hmnble.'
Her eyes filled without any effort. Despite the
fact, she knew very well what she was doing. Now
if ever was the time to reclaim him.
^ I see that you have not forgiven me yet,' she
said, * and that whatever I say will be wrong. I
have dared to disparage Rosabel, who you have
taken imder your protection. One would think
you were the jealous parent, and / the stranger.'
' The di^arity between a girl of nineteen and a
man of thirty-two is scarcely so great,' he replied
with annoyance. ^ I do not think the idea would
suggest itself to everyone.'
* Since when have you begun to interpret me
literally ?' She bit her lips ; the subject was a
sore one. ^ Of course, I mean that you seem to
think it necessary to protect her against me/ As
though, in spite of my talk, I hadn't her interests
deeper at heart than you can have. You give me
credit for no feding at all t'
'You, should not turn a comer so shaq)ly/ he
said. * The cart was on one wheel.'
' There are moments,' she said, * when I hate you
— and this is one of them !'
She permitted a big tear to brim over and run
down without averting her face. He could not help
* What have I done ?' he asked quietly, after an
* You have hurt me.'
* I am sorry.*
* We were friends before you heard of her. Say
she shall not come between us. Alec !'
He felt warm. Now was his opportunity to
speak out and clear the sulphurous atmosphere.
But she was crying, and he still had some feeling
for her — ^the sentiment, half pity, which lingers with
a good-natured man after his fancy for a woman
who likes him is passed, and his conscience was not
quite at ease.
While he was hesitating a motor overtook them,
and, passing rapidly, startled the mare, which
began to rear and back. There was a pretty deep
ditch behind them.
* Give me the reins,' said Aylmer, ' and sit still.'
She had nerve enough to obey, but the dog-cart
overturned at the same moment.
Aylmer disentangled himself, and seized the
plunging mare by the head. One of the shafts
was broken. He unfastened the traces with some
difficulty, and tied the animal to a gate. Then he
turned to look for Mrs. Fairboume.
She had pitched clear, and was sitting on a grassy
bank, very white, but self-controlled.
* Are you hurt ?' he asked anxiously.
* I don't think there are any bones broken,* she
replied, * but I am bruised, and the teeth were nearly
shaken out of my head.' Then the woman who
loved him cried out : * There is blood upon your
' It is nothing at all,' he said. ^ A mere scratch.'
' You are hurt,' she persisted, ' and you won't
tell me I'
^ I assure you that it is nothing.'
* I hate the sight of blood,' she said, ' and — ^and
it's been such a shock.'
To his horror she fainted on the roadside.
Here was a predicament! He could not leave
her alone, and he could not procure assistance
His attitude of concern over her tumbled finery
was quite lover-like. He was a man, so he wondered
if she were dead, and if he would ever forgive him-
self, in that case, for his coldness and sarcasm and
harsh thoughts. It seemed that she really loved
him, poor thing !
* Amy,' he murmured, touching her, ' for God's
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Not even the flutter of an eyelid rewarded his
appeal until quite an intolerable period had
passed, then she opened her eyes, and sought his
*You might have been killed,' she murmured.
^ My heart stood still. Kiss me !'
She offered him her lips.
He stooped automatically, came within a hair's
breadth of self-betrayal. If he kissed her, Rosabel's
mother. ... It was impossible ! There had been
nothing like that between them so far, and he could
not forego his chance with the girl. Why should
Wheels approached. A pony-chaise was in sight.
For the second time that afteitioon he was released
from a painful predicament. An elderly gentleman
in a clerical hat and tie occupied the pony-chaise,
and reined in abreast of them.
* Dear me !' he said, ^ I am afraid you have had
an accident ! I hope sincerely that the lady is
* No serious damage done,' replied Aylmer, with
the cheerfulness of the man who is grateful to
Providence. * But I don't quite know what to
do. We are staying at The Hermitage, and Mrs.
- Fairboume is unable to walk '
* Allow me the pleasure of assisting you,' said the
stranger. ' I am the Rev. Horace Walker, Vicar
of St. Helens. I know The Hermitage very well*
If your friend — ^Mrs. Fairboume, I believe you said ?
— will trast herself to my staid old pony' — ^the
worthy vicar beamed on them through glasses —
* I shall be delighted to convey you both home.'
* Thanks. I must remain with the horse and trap,
but if you would give Mrs. Fairboume a lift I should
* Why not come with us ?' she asked. * You are
hurt more than I am. Mr. Walker would be kind
enough, perhaps, to allow you to tie that stupid
beast on behind. The dog-cart will be all right in
' I am afraid the mare's knees are cut, and she
must be led slowly,' replied Aylmer. ' I must
take a Uttle care of poor Harrowby's property.
It would be better, I think, if you went on alone
with Mr. Walker.'
She was too shaky to argue. He helped her to
the pony-chaise. She leaned heavily on his arm.
* Mr. Walker will take care of you, I am sure,'
he said. * You'll recover diiectly.'
* I — I was so upset,' she murmured. Deep colour
suffused her face.
* Of course,' murmured Aylmer soothingly. * But
you have a lot of pluck.'
Between the platitudes with which the good
vicar regaled her. she pondered these phrases.
* But you have a lot of pluck. . . . You'll recover
They were capable of two interpretations. Other
signs were as ambiguous. If he had been very
eager he might have risked the kiss in defiance
of the approaching pony-chaise ; on the other
hand, he hated to be ridiculous.
* You'll recover directly.*
* Shall I ?• she wondered. *ShaUI?'
A chestnut-leaf, already sere and yellow, rustled
to her lap from an overhanging bough. She looked
at it with eyes startled by a horrible suggestion.
But the sununer of her life was not over. She was
not getting old yet— not yet. He could not have
been brutal enough to mean that time, age, which
dulls the senses, blimts the passions, soothes alike
craving and regret, was to be her cure ? He must
be fond of her. They had been together so much,
and he had always seemed pleased.
She tossed the leaf away.
The vicar saw her.
' Ah, the autunm is coming,' he said.
Aylmer descended to dinner with a patch of
sticking-plaster on his cheek which the women
found becoming. Mrs. Fairboume did not put in
an appearance at all. It was understood that she
had been seriously shaken, and could not remember
what had happened between the upsetting of the
dog-cart and the arrival of the pcmy-chaise. The
vicar, who had been invited to remain, gave a thrill-
ing narrative of the scene of disaster and the
fainting lady by the roadside. Aylmer ate his
dinner solemnly, speechless. He was wondering
how she would sleep to-night, and how she would
meet him to-morrow with the memory of that
imrewarded abasement between them. He was
sorry for her. He would have liked to send her
word that she could put what had happened out
of her mind for ever, as he would, but even to allude
to it would aggravate the wound.
Was it a sort of pity for the mother which kept
him away from the daughter that evening ? Had
Amy been present, he would have shown her no
such consideration lest it should be misunderstood.
But her absence inspired him with the reluctance
a man might feel at making love to a new sweet-
heart over the grave of the old. If it had not been
that he would not leave Rosabel, he would have
arranged to be recalled to London in the morning.
Nevertheless, his concern on the lady's behalf did
not spoil his sleep, while she lay awake half the night.
Had she lost him irretrievably ? It looked like it.
But she was resolved that he should not have Rosabel.
* Never — ^never while I live,' she muttered
incoherently. * His mother-in-law ! It would be
the nightmare of a French farce !'
Where a vacuum had represented maternal love
in her breast the hatred of jealousy now reigned.
Rosabel was an incubus — a, para^te sucking her
youth from her, making her ridiculous. Every
time people looked at this great, fully-developed
girl they must remember that she was the daughter
of a woman who still wished to be attractive and
desired. She could not even take a year off her
age, while other women older than herself were
posing as her jimiors. Thirty-seven ! Why, she
must seem middle-aged to a man of thirty-two!
His first recession might date from the day he
realized it. And he might even suspect that she
was more than she said.
' But he shall not marry Rosabel,' she told herself
again and again. *He shall not marry Rosabel.
Fortunately, she does not seem to be thinking about
him, although I fancied at one time. • . . This
Braithwaite seems to be absorbing her. What a
pity nothing can come of it !'
She held her breath for a moment. Could nothing
come of it ? Experience told her that it was un-
usual, after aU, for a girl to fall in love with a
married man ; girls were always too anxious to get
married themselves. Probably it was Rosabel's
vanity alone which was touched, and she would
forget Braithwaite a fortnight after the party dis-
persed. But meanwhile — she was foolish, and
Aylmer fastidious. Already he was on the watch,
and annoyed. If he became disgusted with the
natural woman he had lauded — ^nam^ly, Rosabel —
there might be a reaction in favour of civilization
and herself ? At any rate, the situation was worthy
of judicious treatment. The r61e of careful mother
was hers of necessity, but could it not be played
in a manner to uphpld her credit without injuring
her interests ? She reckoned upon opposition
spurring Rosabel's obstinacy to greater lengths, and
perhaps did not reckon in vain.
When she confronted Aylmer cmce more her
manner was admirable.
* I am afraid I made a fool of myself yesterday,'
she said, with an air of candour which deceived the
audience at least. *Did I burst into tears and
throw my arms round your neck ?'
' Scarcely,* he said, smiling. * You were a little
upset, that is all.'
* My nerves used to be splendid,' she murmured.
* I don't know what has happened to them
During the ensuing week things seemed to drift
without violent shocks. Mrs. Fairboume sought
Aylmer furtively but diligently, while Aylmer
sought Rosabel in vain. Braithwaite was the
only one who seemed to score. He monopolized
Rosabel without an effort of resistance on her
part. Indoors and out, in their walks and drives
and picnics, it was these two who were alwa3rs
* One would think that you and Mr. Braithwaite
were engaged,' said Mrs. Fairboume to her daughter
once. ' What db you find to say to him ?'
T^ ' Oh, we talk about all sorts of things,' said
* But chiefly about him ?'
' Yes, he likes to talk about himself.'
* You remember what I said to you in your bed-
room that night ?'
^ Rosabel nodded.
' I might have supposed that you had forgotten
already. But I never expect you to obey me. I
have a good mind to send you home to-morrow.'
She had no intention of doing an}rthing of the
sort. It was only the preliminary move in the
new scheme, which was to exhibit Rosabel at her
worst to Ayhner's watchful eyes.
In many subtle ways the woman played her hand
against the girl, each in ignorance of the other's
It was the mother's reprimand, as often as not,
which drew attention to some favour shown to
Braithwaite by Rosabel. It was Mrs. Fairboume's
visible annoyance which accentuated the existence
of this undesirable intimacy between her daughter
and this man. While seeming to restrain, she
sought, needlessly, as it happened, to urge. Each
pained smile, or angry glance, or maternal rebuke
she administered before others emphasized the
gravity of her displeasure and its cause, and called
down judgment on the defiant Rosabel.
Aylmer, watching the girl with jealous affection,
became more and more perplexed. He had really
given her credit for common-sense, high ideals, far
deeper feelings than any of these women were
capable of, although they were articulate, having
a thousand words for every borrowed idea and
sentiment, and she was half dumb, feeling the more
that her emotions were hidden in the grave which
her rage with life had dug.
The girl who had talked to him in the moonlight
by the sea, gasping out her soul — ^and Braith-
His self-control had never been shaken so vio-
lently. That he kept it at all proved the utility
of habit. At times he came near to hating her —
the insult it was to him, eligible, to be passed over
ior this cad ! There must be an explanation. She
could not be so stupid, vulgar-minded. He could
not be deceived.
So he raged and questioned alternately, but never
gave her up or ceased to watch. She was possessed
by a temporary infatuation which would pass. He
would draw her to him still. These were the decisions
of hopeful moments. In despondency anger was his
chief passion, and he felt that she had already raised
a barriert between them which could not be thrown
down. Even if she were her old self again next
week, would his pride be able to forget the tem-
porary defeat which had humbled him ? He pon-
dered the question a whole morning, and after all
it was a chance glance from the girl's eyes which
answered it. She had a puppy in her arms, and
seemed spontaneous at the moment, as though the
restraint she had placed upon herself were forgotten
in a bubbling gu^ of youth.
* IsnH he a dear !'
* You love animals ?' he asked.
* Yes,' she said. * If they once love you, they
love you always. They don't have whims and
moods, as people do.'
* As you do, for instance, Rosabel !'
^ * I am always the same, too,' she said.
* I deny that !*
* I care for people who care for me.*
* " Care " is a word of wide significance. There
are twenty different ways of caring, and not all of
them are good.'
* I know that.* She held the puppy's soft warm
coat against her cheek. * One may hate, for instance.
* And love foolishly.*
Rosabel was silent.
* Or sinfully,* he added.
She gave him a curious longing look. Her lips
opened, but after all she did not speak.
It was that look which turned the scale in her
favour once more, and told him that he would
always want her, and be ready to forgive and forgive
Nevertheless, that very evening they nearly
quarrelled. She would go out of doors after dinner
with Braithwaite, although her mother had bidden
her remain in the house, and Aylmer came upon
them suddenly in the garden. He could have
sworn that Braithwaite's arm was round her waist
before they saw him. It was intoleraUe. He
could scarcely command his voice as he addressed
* Your mother sent me to find you, Rosabel.*
* What does she want ?* asked the girl indiffer-
* You are to go in at once/ His own anger spoke
in the imperious conunand.
* But it is pleasant out here,' she said. ' I don't
care to go in.'
* Am I to tell her that you will not come ?'
Braithwaite intervened with characteristic cool-
* Oh, say you couldn't find us !'
* Thank you ; I was speaking to Miss Fair*
* Rosabel doesn't mind me answering for her, do
you, Rosabel ?'
' No,' said the girl. It was dark, and Aylmer
could only see a pale blur representing the face
which she turned towards him. ' I am not coming
yet,' she added deliberately. ' It isn't bedtime, and
it's hot in the house.'
He could find nothing more to say, and they were
waiting for him to go.
A boyish impulse to catch Braithwaite by the
throat twitched his fingers. On reflection maturer
counsel prevailed, and he would have liked to shake
Rosabel. Oh, how he would have liked it I Even
to box her ears. He said, ' Minx !' under his breath
as he strolled away, and then his ears, straining
despite himself, caught a low-spoken phrase from
the girl, followed by a laugh from the man.
* Of course, mother sent him.'
* You'll get into a row, won't you ?' .rif
* I don't care/
The voices became inaudible to Aylmer. Why
had he listened ? He despised his own paltriness^
and would have given a year of his life to hear
* In the next stage of fatuity I shall be peeping
through keyholes and listening at doors!' he thought.
* One grows demoralized.'
He meant to convey Rosabel's defiance to her
mother verbatim, but softened it mechanically
when he reached the house.
* She will be in presently.'
* I said " at once !" '
' Mr. Braithwaite has forgotten his game of
bridge,' murmured Mrs. Harrowby in her sweet,
low, languid, affected voice. * He doesn't seem to
care as much about it as he used to do.'
She said one thing, and called attention to
another. Everybody was silent after she had
spoken, thinking, and glances passed between the
Mrs. Fairboume rose in apparent vexation.
* Rosabel will be worn out,' she said. * She has
been on her feet all day. I must really insist upon
her coming in at once. Why will girls always over-
do everything ?'
* Shall I help you to find her ?' asked Aylmer.
* Yes, do.'
She twisted a scarf over her bare shoulders as she
emerged from the house, and raised her face to look
at the stars.
^ So fine a night/ she said — ^ so peaceful, and yet
I am all uncharitableness ! Rosabel is really too
bad. The little hussy I what does she mean by it ?'
^That is what I want to know/ said the man
between his teeth.
She laughed softly, allowing her eyes to sink from
the dark, freckled sky to his face.
* So you are getting angry, too !'
' Not serioudy — superficially. The whde thing's
too trivial. I confess I can't understand. , . . What
girl in her senses could — cot$ld ^
* Why not ?' she asked slightingly^* * She's a
little animal, and naturally responds to the male
animal, that is all. I told you that you took her
^ I think I have heard you say that before, or
something like it,' he said in a low tone. ^ It is
' I have made a study of Rosabel as weU as you
have, and — ^women always find each other out.'
* I believe she understands you.*
* Does she ?' He knew she glanced at him, but
was ba£3ed by the night. ' Why do you think so ?'
' She has said things.'
' Tell me,' she said inquisitively.
^No! We were talking about Rosabd. What
are you going to say to her ?'
* Can you not leave that to me ? A hint is no
use. One must use a sledge-hammer with Rosabel.
Why didn't she obey me ?'
He hung back with an impulse of cowardice when
they found the girl and Braithwaite. But Rosabel
deserved a scolding. He would not defend her
* I sent for you, Rosabel,' said her mother. * Why
did you not come at once instead of giving me the
trouble of fetching you ?'
* I told Mr. Aylmer that I didn't wish to
* Did you ? Most impertinent I Don't keep me
* Why do you want me, mother ?'
* I decline to be questioned,* said Mrs. Fairboume
sharply. * I sent for you ; that is enough.'
* Your httle girl isn't such a very little girl, you
know, Mrs. Fairboume,' said Braithwaite, * and we
are feeling so happy outside.'
* I regret to disturb your felicity,' she retorted
sarcastically. ' Come, Rosabel.'
The girl turned with open reluctance to accom-
pany her mother. Braithwaite lingered to light a
cigarette, and Aylmer, not choosing to wait for him,
followed the women to the house.
Mrs. Fairboume's voice, low and bitter, appeared
to take no heed of him. In reality, her words were
intended more for his ears than for Rosabel's.
* You don't know how to behave/ she said. * If
you must be a barmaid, you shall go back to the
Angler's Inn. I won't have you disgracing yourself
and me before my friends. Everybody is getting
disgusted with you.'
Rosabel made no reply.
* I wish to God that you'd answer when I
speak to you!' cried her mother, in a gust of
genuine passion. ' Your behaviour this evening has
been insufferable— insufferable ! Are you going to
* No,' said Rosabel bluntly.
' Rosabel, Rosabel !' murmured Aylmer.
They had reached the Ught which streamed out of
the house, and paused to look at each other before
entering. The girl met him with red face, and eyes
strangely bright and fierce.
' Don't go away for a moment, Mrs. Fairboume,'
he begged. ' This is most regrettable. Rosabel, I
am sure you are sorry on second thoughts.'
* Fm not !' declared the girl, with a hysterical
gulp, which was unUke her ; and she ran into the
house and upstairs.
Mrs. Fairboume laughed faintly. She was re-
covering herself, and might have been a little
pleased at his futile interference.
' You see ! She has as little respect for you as
for me, my friend !'
* Why should she have any ?' he asked, with a
great effort of justice. ' I have no authority over
her, after all.'
* But I am her mother/
* Ah, you reminded her of it so late,' he said softly,
* You said yourself that the proper feeling between
you could not be bom full-grown. Have patience.
I am sure she has a heart. If you can convince her
that you love her, she will worship the ground under
She wished to answer that she neither desired
Rosabel's affection nor had any to offer as a bait,
but felt that it would be unwise to say so.
Meanwhile, Rosabel locked her bedroom door
after her as though she were pursued, and sank
panting on the edge of her bed.
* I'm disgracing her before her friends. Every-
body is getting disgusted with me!' repeated the
girl aloud. * And she is frightened — frightened !'
A feverish exultation animated her. She did
not like Maurice Braithwaite any better to-day
than she had ever liked him. But her mother was
becoming uneasy. Already there was a foretaste
of revenge in her mouth — ^revenge sweeter than
sweets had ever been to the child whose rich nature
had been allowed to run wild. Not that she was
happy, for real happiness can only exist with peace
of mind. She was triumphant, that was alL Her
head swam in the vertigo of moral intoxication.
She thought of her mother, and then of Aylmer,
Digitized by VjOOQIC
and again of her mother. The man's eyes haunted
her with a reproach which brought a little pain to
But she was glad she had defied him. He would
no longer pester her with advances she did not
choose to welcome, patronize her for her mother's
sake. No true friendship could ever exist between
them. He belonged to the other side.
At the moment she was glad that she had nobody.
She derived a fierce joy from the fact that she was
alone — alone, quite alone, that there was not a soul
\i^o had any right to her loyalty and affection. like
an eaglet perched on a mountain crag, she looked
down on humanity, and hated it. She would not
have given up her isolation in this mood ; there was
something tragic in it, which appealed to her uncon-
scious craving for romance. It was something, after
all, to be quite different from other girls. It was
something to feel that her life was in her own hands
to be disposed of as she chose. It was picturesque
and splendid, if sad, to be situated as she was
towards her mother and her mother's class. She
had been wronged, but she was going to be re-
Her eyes darkened» and she sat brooding, brood-
ing, and staring dimly at the light.
There was a willow by the stream, weeping for the
sins and sorrows of men. Beside the willow was a
grassy bank fringed with rushes, which in their turn
were bordered by water-lilies. Sometimes a king-
fisher was to be seen skimming the water in chase
of a fly, or perching on a bough of the aspen oppo-
site. The picturesqueness was almost oppressive,
Rosabel had not reached that stage of artistic
culture which finds a ' subject ' deplorable. She
thought the neighbourhood of the willow lovely,
and often paid it a visit. Sometimes Braithwaite
came, too. He joined her there this afternoon.
* I couldn't get away sooner,* he explained.
* Harrowby would make me look at that confounded
sick terrier of his.*
* It doesn't matter,* said Rosabel.
* Our last day at The Hermitage, Rosabel I' He
sat down beside her, and took her hand as a matter
of course. * You will be sorry to go ?* he asked.
' Not particularly.
* How disconcerting you arc ! Do say you'll be
sorry ! You must like me.'
She did not reply. It seemed as though she
could not tell a lie to further any scheme, as though
her revenge must fall to the ground even at this
hour if it depended upon lies.
^ I can't bear to think of parting, Rosabel.'
He put his arm round her. She made no resist-
ance ; it was not the first time.
' When shall I see you again ?'
' I don't know,' murmured the girl, ' if you
* I wish you hadn't gone to live with your mother.
I wish you were still at the Angler's ?nn.'
* Why ? What difference would it make to
* Lots. You are a young lady now. What a
damned fool I was !' He diecked himself. ' I'm
awfully fond of you,' he said. ' No nonsense, you
Rosabel was watching a moorhen among the
* I ought to have taken more trouble. You
must have wanted to get away from it. You had
nothing then, you were nothing.'
* I am just the same— only Rosabel,' she said with
He did not heed ; his own thoughts were clamour-
ing too loud.
* What a good time we might have had ! And
you are not happy with your mother. You dcm't
care for her, and she doesn't care for you. We
might have had a jolly trip to Paris.'
' I'd like to go to Paris/ said Rosabel.
He looked at her, flushing.
' You could still go — if you had the pluck,' he
said in a low tone.
* Could I ?'
' You know how delighted I should be to take
His bluntness was as primitive as his love. She
would never be able to reproach him with duplicity,
at any rate.
There was a long pause. The man's hot eyes
dwelt on the girl's face with a sat5n:-like eagerness.
The tide of his own passion caught him, swept him
off his feet. He kissed her, whispered urgently in
her ear. What had seemed impossible five minutes
ago now appeared as easy as it was desirable. He
had meant to ask her when he begged her to meet
him by the stream, but only because he would not
throw a chance away. He had not really believed
that she would dare, that she cared enough. There
was always a curious coldness about her, though
she was never offended in these days at anything
he said. And he had said a good deal, short of this
He did not understand her in the least. He
thought it was maidenly reluctance, fear of the
plunge struggling with inclination, which made her
hesitate, that she was only waiting for persuasion.
As though anything he could say or do weighed with
her in the least !
* I would give you everything you wanted,* he
said. ' You should have the best time with me
that a girl could have. YouVe never really en-
joyed yourself. Fd show you Hfe — ^real life V
It was probable that he would.
* I am rich,* he added, ' and you will have two
thousand a year when your mother dies, whether
she Hkes it or not. You can't come to grief, and
you can't throw me over now. You've let things
go too far. It isn't as though you were a school-
girl, and didn't know. You can't be so innocent.
You must have seen and heard something at the
* I'd like to go to Paris,* she repeated, musing,
^ but I'd like to come back to London afterwards.
Would you bring me back to London ?'
* Yes. You'd meet people ; but I don't care if
* Should I have a carriage, so that I could drive
in the Park sometimes ?'
* Dictating your terms, are you ?*
' You could afford it ?' she asked almost anxi-
* You should have a carriage. Would you really
drive in the Park ?'
* Of course. What would be the use of having it
if it weren't seen ? What about your wife ?' she
' Oh, we've had enough of each other/ he said
brutally. ' She can hang herself.*
* You'd be saying that to me some day.'
' No, I shouldn't. Ad^e would divorce me —
these things are easily managed in the States — and
I'd marry you.'
' You wouldn't,' said Rosabel.
' I would ! Good Lord, I'd marry you to-morrow !
I'm not a bad fellow ; don't be afraid.'
' To-morrow, perhaps ; but afterwards ? I know.'
She looked at him darkly. * You'd break my heart
if I loved you ; but I don't, so it doesn't matter.'
' What ! Are you fooling me, after all ?'
* I'll go away with you, if you like,' said Rosabel.
' But I'm not going to tell lies about it.'
He was astounded.
* You don't love me ?'
' No,' she said, breaking ofi a twig of willow. * It
doesn't matter, does it ?'
' By God !' he said ; * you've got courage ! I
never heard anything like this. If you don't care
for me, why on earth do you want to go away ?'
* Because I hate my mother,' she said. * You've
got a right to know,_as you're going to pay for
eveiything. It doesn't make any difference to
He became gloomy, a trifle reproachful.
' I am disappointed. You've got no sentiment,
* It isn't,* she said, * as though you were going to
He threw himself back on the grass suddenly and
laughed. Her candour removed the slight restraint
which his * deUcacy ' had imposed. He could talk
to her as plainly now as she talked to him. Perhaps
it was more comfortable.
* You Uttle devil !' he said. ' So that is what
you have had in your head ! I've wondered some-
times. I alwa}rs knew you were different from
other girls. I'll take you ; don't be uneasy. And
I'll treat you fairly from first to last. You are
being straight with me, and I'll be straight with
* That's settled, then,' said Rosabel, almost with
reUef. ' When shall we go ?'
' To-morrow,' he replied, sitting up.
' To-morrow !'
* Yes. Unless you would rather wait ?'
' It doesn't matter,' said the girl.
Her voice was steady, but her cheeks were flushed,
and she was peehng her twig of willow with rapid
nervous fingers which could not keep still.
* I don't see the use of wasting time.' He was
emphatic on that pomt. * And that garden-party
they are going to will give us a good opportunity.
I shall receive a telegram in the morning recalling
me to London on business. You will have a head-
ache when the others go to the garden-party, and
stay at home. As soon as the coast is clear,
you can slip off and catch the 4.5 to London.
* ril meet you at King's Cross, and take you to
my chambers — I've had a set of rooms in Piccadilly
since Addle cleared out — ^and we'll dine early and
get away by the Continental train before you are
* I don't see how I could take my clothes with
me,' she said.
* Don't try ; I'll get you everything you want.'
He squeezed her arm. * Paris is a hive ; your
mother will never find you. And I shall be there.
Nobody shall bully you.'
^ I am not afraid,' replied Rosabel.
Braithwaite laughed. The girl's fingers were still
plucking at the willow.
It seemed to her that her purpose must be written
on her face as it was engrained upon her heart, and
she went indoors reluctantly. Nobody appeared to
remark anything amiss with her, however, and as
Braithwaite was alwa5rs gay his exaggerated high
spirits were not noticeable.
Only Aylmer came up to her after dinner, and
looked at her with the keen eyes of affection.
* What are you meditating so deeply, fair maid ?
"A deed without a name," like the witches in
She raised wide startled eyes to the man's.
* Will you come for a stroll with me ?' he added.
* Mother is over there,' she answered brusquely.
* Ask her P
' I ask yof*.'
Rosabel hesitated. She was pulled two ways.
She liked to be with him better than with anybody
in the world. But what was the use of encouraging
herself to care for him ? Besides, to-night she was
afraid. She did not wish to talk to anyone.
* No. I am waiting for Mr. Braithwaite,' she
Aylmer flushed Uke a boy. He was really show-
ing a phenomenal patience, and meeting with no
If he had given in to pride, he would have turned
on his heel and left her at once ; but she was even
dearer to him than his pride. And perhaps his
obstinacy — he was liberally endowed with it —
would not cede the palm to this girl of nineteen.
He meant to win her yet. So he kept his temper
with remarkable self-control, and continued to
smile quite naturally and good-temperedly.
* You are really very rude, Rosabel. But you
can't offend me, you can't shake me off. You are
not going to wait for Braithwaite !'
* Yes, I am/
' When he returns you will be gone. Come along !'
He took her arm, half laughing, half earnest, and
she yielded, although reluctantly. ' It is time you
atoned for your bad behaviour. Do you reaiize
that you have spoilt my visit ?'
* I suppose mother told you to say that !' re-
torted Rosabel, with scorn.
* Pardon me,' he said, * I sometimes venture upon
an original remark/
* I know what everybody thinks I'
* I am afraid you are flattering yourself, my dear
child,' he said a Uttle bitterly.
* And I don't care,' persisted Rosabel.
* Don't care Uved to be hanged.'
The girl glanced at him resentfully. She sus-
pected that he was making fun of her, and she was
less inclined to put up with that to-night than even
To be laughed at, when she was on the eve of the
tragedy of her life ! She comforted herself, Uke a
child, with the prospect of shocking him. Her
flight would be almost as great a blow to him as to
her mother. Perhaps he would no longer desire to
be connected with the family. What an addition
to her revenge that would be i
i She was silent for so long that he spoke again,
* Are you very angry with me, Rosabel ?'
To her horror a sudden inclination to cry seized
her. She had to blink down the tears, and swallow
liunp after Imnp in her throat. She was enraged
with herself for such weakness. Why should she
mind what he said and how he said it ?
* Let me alone,* she said in a strangled voice.
* Surely I haven't hurt your feelings ?'
* No, you couldn't,' she said.
He withdrew the caressing hand quickly.
* It's only Braithwaite who can annoy and please
you, eh ?'
* Yes !' gasped Rosabel.
* I have no patience with you,' he said, with anger
sudden and deep. 'Go in! Go away! I want
nothing more to do with you.'
He had never felt readier to despair.
* Another girl would attempt to conceal her
attachment to Braithwaite, at any rate — ^would deny
it,' he thought. ' She thrusts it under one's very
eyes as though it were something to be proud of, or
she had no sense of shame. Is Amy right, after all ?
Is she only an animal ?'
* Where is Braithwaite ?' asked Harrowby.
It was the next morning, and the party had con-
gregated in the comfortable sitting-hall as usual to
discuss the plans of the day.
* Packing,' said his wife. * Don't you know ?
He has had a wire recalling him to London at
Aylmer experienced a thrill of pleasure. He
had the cheerful prospect before him of a whole
day unshadowed by Braithwaite. And a day
with a garden-party in it, which would offer many
agreeable opportunities of making hay while the
sun shone. If Rosabel would only be reason-
He glanced at her instinctively. She was on
the window-seat, and the outline of her cheek was
alone visible. Her pose was pensive. Was she re-
gretting this beast's departure ?
He wanted badly to talk to her and make up their
Uttle quarrel of last night, but Mrs. Fairboume in-
sisted upon his accompanying her to the golf ground.
He wished Rosabel would come with them. He
dreaded an affectionate parting between her and
Rosabel remained on the window-seat, however,
^e knew that Braithwaite would look there for her
presently. She stared at the smooth velvet lawn,
the trees waving gently, the thrush busily at work
among the flower-beds.
Her suppressed excitement of yesterday had sub-
sided. She was apathetic now, as she had been on
her journey to London a few weeks ago. No doubt
the strain would arise by-and-by with the necessity
She was destroying her own life, but she did not
care, urged onward by a childish folly which was
assisted, unfortunately, by a more than childish
strength of will. She thought that the joy of
revenge would be a worthy reward. Yoimg for
her years in some ways, she had acquired the habit
of dreaming and brooding, through being overmuch
alone, till she saw herself, not as a reckless girl of
passionate nature, cherishing a grudge which made
her far more miserable than it was Ukely to make
anybody else, but as a tragic figure, the heroine of
a thrilling drama of hfe.
A man's footsteps descended the stairs, halted
half-way, then quickened. Braithwaite strode
eagerly across the hall to her side.
' Rosabel V
• ROSABEL ^25
His voice was low, quick, impassioned. She
looked up at the flushed handsome face.
* You remember everything ?'
She nodded. There was a pause.
* You won't go back ?'
' I shall be waiting for you so eagerly, my
He kissed her.
* There is somebody coming,' she said furtively,
and drew her hand away.
They both looked out of the window in silence
while the butler tidied the litter of newspapers and
magazines on the table. The hungry thrush was
still poking in and out of the flower-beds. The
butler went away.
* I wish I could take you with me now,' said
" You think that I won't come ?*
* Of course I trust you ! It is only that I am in
terror of something unforeseen turning up.'
Rosabel's dark eyes burned with the fire which
was scorching her soul.
' N<4hing could prevent my coming,' she said.
* You are a little brick !'
* Hadn't you better go ?' she suggested. * You'll
lose your train.'
He was reluctant to leave her ; she was quite
willing to be rid of him.
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She found suddenly that he was regarding her
with a curious smile.
' I was thinking about your mother. She's a
funny sort of mother, isn't she ? Never mind, you
need never see her again. She may be Aylmer's
money, but she wouldn't be mine i Come and see
me off.' •
She rose and accompanied him obediently.
The dog-cart, with his bag in it, was already at
* Good-bye,' he whispered, * till this afternoon.'
' Till this afternoon,' she repeated.
He waved his hand to her, and she went to wander
alone in the garden. It was quite quiet. Everyone
had gone to the golf ground. She could think as
much as she liked undisturbed.
Once more she went over her plans, so that no
unconsidered detail should take her by surprise.
There was her purse with ten pounds in it to be
guarded carefully. She might want it some day—
if Braithwaite deserted her, or she wished to leave
him. She did not expect him to be faithful ; all
his protestations did not convince her. It did not
matter ; she could always earn her own living while
she was young : she was used to work ; and when she
was old she would have Miss Dudgeon's money.
Time lagged with her this morning. There were
moments of impatience when it seemed that it
would never pass. She was all anxiety to take the
final step and realize that no turning back was
possible. She dwdt with passionate pleasure on
the scene which would take place when her absence
became known, of her mother's curiosity changing
to anxiety and suspicion. All the peofde who
came to Great Cumberland Place would be talking
about her flight with Maurice Braithwaite^ She
knew how glad they were of a piece of scandal,
and how exceptionally bitter and smart her mother
was wont to be over the peccadilloes of her
friends. In future she would not enjoy gossip so
much ; a stone would have broken one of the
windows of her own glass house, and it would
occuj^ all her time to keep the wind out and patch
the hole I
And Alec Aylmer, what would he say ? Of
course, he would be angry with her ; but what did
that matter ? In all probabiUty she would never
see him again. It was hard to realize that. She
stared at him over lunch when no one was observing
her. For some reason the memory of that ni^t at
Folkestone was fresher to-day than any she shared
with him. But she had resolved never, never to
think about him if she could hdp it, never to torture
herself with visions of what might have been. He
was her mother's property, and it was one of Rosa-
bel's rules of Ufe never to care for anyone who did
not care for her. She wanted no charity kindness
from woman or man.
' What have you been dojng this morning ?' he
asked her suddenly.
* You should have come with us.*
* I Uked it better in the garden. I think golf's a
* You don't care for games, do you, Rosabel ?
You are too serious. When you are thirty you will
have learnt to be young.*
* No, when she is forty,' corrected Gledhow. * It
is not till a woman is forty that she is really frolic-
' On the principle of over-eating one's self to-day
in case there may be nothing to eat to-morrow ?*
suggested Harrowby. ' I have known ^
* Young people are so morbid nowada)rs,' inter-
rupted Mrs. Fairboiuiie.
* If you had said " young women," I should
agree with you. Women are more morbid than
* Of course they are,' she assented promptly. * A
man can work off superfluous emotions in dissipa-
tion, a woman can only stay at home and think. A
generation ago she had hysterics ; now she writes
books about her soul, and discusses free love with
her male friends. It is the same complaint express-
ing itself in another form.'
Mts. Harrowby was looking at Rosabel with a
* Would Rosabel have been hysterical a genera-
tion ago ?• she inquired.
' No,' said Mrs. Fairboume. * Her appetite is too
^ But I have seen lots of girls who eat voraciously,
and are never satisfied/ said Mrs. Gledhow, speak-
ing for the first time.
She had a way of involving a sentence so that it
was impossible to guess whether it meant a great
deal or nothing at all.
There was a pause. Mrs. Harrowby broke fresh
* How are we going this afternoon ?' she in-
^ Suppose you four ladies took the landau, and
we men walked ?' suggested her husband. ^ There
is a pleasant short-cut through wood and meadow.'
The others agreed, and by-and-by the women
went up to dress.
Rosabel followed her mother.
^ I don't care about going,' said the girl, in her
* What is the matter ?'
' I don't care about it,' repeated Rosabel.
* Does your head ache ?'
' Your heart, perhaps !' Mrs. Fairboume gave
an unpleasant Uttle laugh. She thought it was
Maurice Braithwaite's departure ^hich had turned
Rosabel * of!,* * You can do as you Kkc,* she added,
shrugging her shoulders. * But what excuse am I
to make for you ? Mrs. Haixowby will consider it
' I dcm't know/ said Rosabel. * I supposed you
would be able to think of something.'
* Oh, make your own excuses i If I say an3rthing,
I shall say that something has put you out of
temper, and leave people to find a reas<m for them-
selves. I am disgusted with you. This is the last
time you will pay a visit with me.*
Rosabel's eyes gleamed. If her mother had
known how literally her threat might be fulfilled i
She was so smart and pretty in her elegant summer
toilet. Rosabel noted the shape of her face, still
so youthful, the hair which was perhaps a little
* touched,' her beautiful eyes, and long white
* I am glad we are leaving to-morrow,' continued
Mrs. Fairboume. * You have made me most un-
comfortable the whole time we have be^i here,
Rosabel. The Harrowbys must think you a per-
fect savage, and have a little better (pinion of me
for bringing you. I asked to bring you. My own
invitation was a long-standing one, given before my
friends had heard of you. I wish heartily that they
had never heard of you at all i'
^ I don't,' said Rosabel. ^ I hope they all know
about me.' ^
* I don't follow your mood,' said her mother.
* You have no reason to be self-satisfied. I may
as well tell you that I have declined another invita-
tion on your account, and taken a furnished house
in Norfolk instead. Mr. Bellamy will be among the
guests I have asked to stay with us. I hope you
will be civil to him.'
* You understand, Rosabel ? I expect you to
retrieve yourself by behaving sensibly.'
' I understand very well what you mean, mother.'
* The only thing for you, I can see, is to settle
down. Mr. Aylmer agrees with me.'
Rosabel's cheeks flamed suddenly.
* What is it to do with him !'
* All my affairs are to do with him,' replied Mrs.
Fairboume, with an assurance far from being
* Good-bye I' said the girl abruptly, and turned
Her mother did not trouble to answer. She was
putting on her gloves.
Rosabel went to her room, and packed a few
necessaries in a little bag. Then she wrote a note,
which she had written many times in her mind :
* I have run away with Mr. Braithwaite. What
else could you expect of a barmaid ? You will never
see me again.
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She addressed this characteristic message to her
mother, and waited awhile. Presently she heard
the carriage drive up, and the ladies depart. A
few moments later the men started.
If she had looked her last upon her mother with-
out any emotion other than joy, it was far other-
wise that she said farewell with her eyes to Alec
She gazed after him dimly. In another way he
had done her as much harm as her mother. She
could hear his voice still :
' Love, love, Rosabel !'
The girl's throat contracted. She drew a long
quivering sigh, and went to put the note on her
mother's dressing-taMe where it would be found
when she was gone.
In spite of Braithwaite's welcome departure, Aylmer
was feeling depressed this afternoon, and his ab*
straction scarcely realized the sunlight and shadow
of the woods.
The necessity for a distinct understanding with
Amy Fairboume confronted him. There are some
hints which the keenest-witted woman will not take,
and she still attempted to lead him with a string
which was irksome, although it was fashioned of
nothing more galling than ribbon and flowers.
It would not be pleasant to tell her outright that
he wanted the girl ; yet otherwise how could he
put himself upon a proper footing in her house?
To go on in the old way Mras unfair to Impself and
Rosabel. At least, he ought to have a chance. Of
course, the mother might be a powerful adverse
influence if she chose. Would she choose ?
That he should ever arrive at asking himself such
a question showed how great a revolution had taken
place in his regard for her. Where was the indul-
gence he had formerly bestowed upon the weak-
nesses whkh had seined part of her charm ? It
had OMiic hmne to him slowly but certainly that
their code of mcnals was not at all the same ; that
these ^weaknesses' he had admired made up a
woman who was selfish and vain» unscrupulous and
cruel. The surface of her was so pdished» in fetct,
that the gutter of it had Minded him to the fact
that the metal beneath was only of the ccmmion
sort. He had been a fool» and the result of his
folly would be a bad quarter of an hour» and a
lifelong enmity from a woman who would never
^ If you are going to run on a hot afternoon like
this, I shall sit down on the nearest bank and wait
till you come back»' said Gledhow resignedly.
' My figure was not intended for ten miles an
* Not five,' retorted Aylmer, * and a little exer-
cise will do you good.'
But. his smile was directed as much against him-
self as the other man. Unconsciously he had been
hurrying to meet Rosabel.
In another ten minutes the men emeiged from the
wood near a gate in a ring fence, and five minutes
more brought them to a lawn gay with ladies
in summer costumes, their sunshades dotting the
grasa like many-coloured mushrooms on gaudy
Aylmer's tyeg roved instantly in search of
Rosabel, and found her not. While he stood yawning
mentally, an acquaintance greeted him, and lxH*e
him off to have an iced drink after his walk. Half
an hour had passed bef<M*e he found his way to the
side of Mrs. Fairbourne, and his first remark was
sufficiently damping to a woman in love.
* Where is Rosabel V
* She iai*t here.*
He started slightly.
* I thought she came with you ?*
* No ; she had one of her sulky fits, and preferred
to stay at home.'
* What excuse did she make ?*
^None, except that she preferred to remain at
home. What is the matter ?•
' The sun is rather warm,' h€ said.
* You shouldn't have walked.'
^ I will go indoors for a moment, if you will excuse
* Let me come with you !'
* No, please don't. It is quite unnecessary.'
He motiimed her back in her chair.
^ You always seem so strong,' she said uneasily.
* I am strong,' he replied. * Stronger than you
He left her staring after him, conscious of some-
thing underl3dng his words that she did not under-
stand, something antagonistic to her and her
desires. So she sat isolated among the hum of
voices and laughter and clatter of tea-cups, with a
haggard look on her face.
The afternoon had suddenly become sultry. She
felt out of place, n^lected, old. Why had she
come ? Why did she go anywhere ? There was
only one thing in the world she wanted, and it
Aylmer left after excusing himself to his hostess,
and walked rapidly back to The Hermitage. He
was mieasy about Rosabel. If she were fretting
over Braithwaite's departure he wanted to talk a
little sense into her head and comfort into her
heart. This was how he accounted to himself for
his haste to return. In reality, an impression of
calamity had overtaken him, and his actions were
dictated by an unacknowledged anxiety to make
sure that she was safe.
The garden wore a deserted air when he reached
it at last. There was the same suggestive empti-
ness in the hall, of which his eyes took in every
comer with a glance. But on the window-seat,
which she had favoured so often, a book lay open,
as though a girl's careless hand had just dropped
it and might soon pick it up again. She was not
in the drawing-room, nor in the dining-room, nor
in the library.
He rang the bell. A servant appeared, who
looked surprised to see him.
* Can you tell me where I shall find Miss Fair-
* rU inquire, sir.*
His pulses became feverish while he waited.
When he heard a footstep his head went up with
a jerk, and if she had been there his eyes would
have said to her: ^I love you.' But it was only
* Miss Fairboume isn*t in her room, sir. I know
she went out soon after you did, sir, because Williams
the gardener saw her at the station.'
' At the station ?'
^ Yes, sir. He s$^ she had a little bag in her
The woman looked curious.
' Thanks,' said Aylmer.
His face was gray. He realized now what it was
that he had feared all along, why he had been im-
pelled to return at once, why the suspense of that
walk back would remain with him, a hideous
memory, for ever. No process of reasoning was
necessary. He loved her ; his instinct leaped to
the right conclusion, and he knew then as well as he
knew later that she had gone to Braitbwaite.
Harsh words he had lor her at this moment —
words he would have struck another man for apply-
ing to her yesterday. But he could not leave her
to her fate ; the gir) must be saved despite hersdf «
although she seemed scarcely worth the effort.
She was Rosabel still, and her life, whatever she
did, was woof to the warp of his own.
He knew Braithwaite's London address, and
there was a train at 5.15. She must have had
more than an hour's start of him, but he could
only do his best — and blame himself most unreason-
ably for not having anticipated her flight, and
prevented it. Yet . even now he could scarcely
credit her with such a passion ; obstinate as she
had been in making herself ccmspicuous, he had never
seen her give Braithwaite a glance which meant love.
But she had gone I The crushing fact stared
him in the face, and his amazement did not bring
her back. He had thought her a mere girl, innocent
in spite of her breeding, imbued with a natural
shrinking from an}rthing gross or evil, and she had
gone to Braithwaite ! It was the bitterest draught
of his life.
He closed his eyes in the train to avoid seeing
his fellow-passengers, and wished he could close
his ears, too. There was hell in his heart.
When his hansom stopped at Braithwaite's
door the windows were alight.
* Mr. Braithwaite is out of town, sir,* said the
servant who answered his ring.
The ready response was what Aylmer had ex-
pected in spite of the lighted windows. It dispelled
any hope he might have had that he was mistaken
* Nonsense I* he said. * He came back to London
this morning, and he will see me. If he is out I
will wait for him.'
He pushed past the man, who gave way, taken
by surprise, and ascended the stairs.
On the first floor a door stood ajar, revealing a
Rosabel was there, and alone. She had taken
off her hat and coat, and rested in an armchair,
quite at home, her cheek against the cushion as
though she were tired. Braithwaite's cigar-case
lay on the table beside her, his photographs were
strewn about the mantelpiece, his belongings
ever3^where. The place reeked of him. And she
was there !
Rage — an almost imconquerable rage — seized
Aylmer. He pushed open the door.
She started up with a cry, and went very white ;
he was pale enough, too. They stared at each other
in silence, and the tension strained like a lute-
string — ^held insufferably till it broke at last with
* Are you mad, Rosabel ? What are you doing
' Have you seen the note I left for my mother ?'
* No ; I returned from the garden-party earlier than
the others, and guessed what had become of you.'
* I told her in the note that I was going away
with Mr. Braithwaite.' The girl was breathing
quickly, unevenly ; she defied him with her eyes,
* I am not frightened or ashamed/
* I regret to hear it V
* What do you want ?' she demanded. * Why
have 5^u come ?*
*To take you away with me. You shall not
stay with Braithwaite. You shall not ruin yourself
if I can help it.'
* But it's my life/ she said, ^ and I can do what I
like with it.'
* Tou must leave this place at once, Rosabel.'
*You can't dictate to me,' she panted. *You
have no power over me.'
He stood like a rock before her — ^a rock against
which she hurled herself unavailingly.
* I would not have believed it possible that you
could be so dead to decency.'
' Kindly go away,' she cried. * I have made up
my mind, and when my mind is made up nobody
can change it. You might have known it was
useless to come.'
* You disgust me I' he said, with a gesture of anger.
*How I could ever have thought you had good
•Good instincts!' Rosabel laughed. *Why
should I have any ? From whom should I have
inherited them — from my mother ? From whom
should I have acquired th^n — ^from my friends of
the public-house ?'
* Your tone is abominable,' he said. * But for
the sake of the girl you seemed to be — ^the girl
who talked to me that night at Folkestone — I
refuse to leave you with this man.'
She was drunk and shaking with excitement.
* You can't help yourself. I shall stay> and you
can go back to my mother and tell her why ! Tell
her that I am what she made me, and if that's
bad, why, she's bad too. When did she ever care
for me, protect me, even trouble herself to ask what
I was doing all those years ? I might have walked
the streets — ^as long as nobody knew. But every-
body will know this. The whole story of the
shameful way she deserted me will owne out. She
made me eat dirt, let her eat some too ! I would^
wallow in the gutter for the sake of splashing
A light flashed across Aylmer's brain, and a
weight rolled off his heart.
* So you are not in love with Braithwaite ?' he
asked quietly. * It is only — ^revenge ?'
* Go back and tell her !' panted the girl. * You
are her friend. Let her see herself as she is at last.
I shall stay.'
* With a man you don't love — for revenge !' At
last he felt his feet, and really roused to the fight.
^ Good God ! how can you be so foolish I Leaving
morality out of the question, how can you be so
foolish ! What do you think your life would be ?'
'I know what I am doing,* replied Rosabel
' What are you ?' he demanded. * A woman of
such unnatural depravity that you have no shrink-
ing, or a child delirious with this mad notion of
* I don't care what you say,' retorted Rosabel,
between her teeth. * Call me whatever you please.
I shall stay.'
* I confess that you amaze me,' he said. * Is
it possible that you can be ridiculous enough to
commit suicide in order to punish your mother ?
Do you imagine that she would be humiliated by
your shocking behaviour ? Not a bit of it ! Her
friends would pity her. They would say : " Poor
Amy,' what a misfortune to be burdened by such a
daughter ! The father was a groom, you know :
what else could you expect ?" '
His mimicry of the voice of a fine lady was ex-
cellent, but they were both in too much of a temper
to appreciate it. Rosabel gazed at him with the
eyes of a basilisk. Hard as he was hitting, she did
not flinch. She clenched hands and teeth, and
defied him still, and even the man's anger could not
deny her strength a silent tribute of unwilling
' It doesn't make any difference what you say,'
she reiterated. * Of course, you are acting for her.
I dare say she told you to fetch me.'
16 — a
' In fact, you insinuate that I lied when I denied
any knowledge of your note ?'
Rosabel preserved an obstinate silence.
\ And you insist upon believing that your mother
would be heart-broken by your conduct because you
are too stupid to see that she would have compen-
'She is very proud,' said Rosabel, 'and she is
always considering what people think of her.'
*You are cutting your own throat,' he said,
' that is all. You had revenge in your very hand
at home^ — ^a legitimate revenge which would have
come to you without any seeking on your part.
But you were too preoccupied to observe it— or you
preferred to abandon yourself to your own head-
long course to ruin. God give me patience with
She wavered at last, impressed by his savage
' I don't know what you mean,' she said.
' And I don't feel inclined to tell you just now.
Put on your hat, Rosabel !'
* I shall not.'
He caught her by the wrist.
* Put on your hat !'
' You can't take me away by force !' cried the
girl, and wrenched herself free, and ran to the door.
' Maurice !' she called.
Aylmer uttered an exclamation, made a step
forward as though to silence her, quivered, and
* Now go !* she said. * He will protect me.*
It was the crisis of two lives, and pride fought
with love for mastery of the man. If he left her
now it would be for ever.
He heard Braithwaite coming down the stairs.
* And I ? Would I hurt you ?' he asked in a low
tone. * Would I hurt you in a thousand years as
you have hurt me to-day ? Your mother wishes
to marry me — it isn't a pleasant thing to say,
Rosabel — and I love you ; there was your revenge.*
* You love me ?*
* Yes.* ; ^
* You, only you — for ever you !*
^e left the door and came nearer to him and
nearer, searching his face with wide eyes — the
terrible eyes of a soul*s hunger.
. * It*s a lie !* she said. ' You are only cheating
He answered with a look, and she broke suddenly,
dropping on her knees at the table, and burst into
Braithwaite entered, and started at sight of
* What the devil are you doing here ?* he demanded
furiously. *Don*t cry, Rosabel.^ H^e turned to
Aylmer again. ' Damn you, get out of this !*
* Not yet,* said Aylmer. He bent over the
girl. ' Rosabel, do you really wish me to leave
She put out her hand blindly.
* No. Take me away,* she sobbed.
He helped her to her feet, and she put on her hat,
which he gave her, and her coat.
Braithwaite watched as though he were stupefied.
' Look here, Rosabel, you are not going ?'
' Yes, I am,' she said.
* You are treating me unfairly.'
* I don't think we need discuss that !' said Aylmer,
restraining his passion with an effort. 'Come,
He led her to the door. Braithwaite inter-
* Confound it, this is too much ! Don't you want
to stay with me, Rosabel ?'
* No,' said Rosabel distinctly.
The veins stood out on Braithwaite's forehead,
swollen with a rush of blood, and his hand clenched ;
but he did nothing — there was nothing to do ; she
had ended it. She did not even wish him good-bye,
and the door banged behind her with a note of
Aylmer took her downstairs, and sighed with
relief to get out of the house. He put her in a
hansom, and got in himself.
* Paddington,' he said.
Rosabel did not heed or ask where he was taking
her; at intervals she sobbed still — ^low, long-
drawn, tearless sobs, the last mutterings of the
storm. Aylmer sat silent, his arms folded, his
features set, staring straight ahead. He did not
touch her, or look at her, or take any notice
The drive seemed short ; they were both thinking
so hard. When the cab stopped, Rosabel spoke at
* Where are we going ?*
* I shall telegraph to your mother, and leave
you with your aunt at the Angler's Inn.*
She raised no objection, and he sent the wire, and
took the tickets without remark. But he selected
an empty compartment, and pulled up one window
to protect her from the draught.
Rosabel's eyes smarted, and her head ached.
She took off her hat presently, and leaned back.
Her attitude was almost identical with her attitude
in Braithwaite's armchair. Aylmer ground his
teeth, and turned away.
' You've said a lot of horrid things to me, haven't
you ?' she said abruptly. * Bitter things— cruel
* You deserved every one of them, and more.V
* But you needn't have said them.'
' I thought you were fond of justice, Rosabel ?
You ventured far in search of it V
' CMi, I shan't talk at all !' said Rosabel
She averted her face, and whimpered a little
presently^ and the rest of the journey — ^like the
cab drive — ^was performed in silence.
It was dark before they reached their station, and
when they descended the lamps were lighted,
and a chill mist was rising from the low-l)ang
She led the way through the wicket, and stopped
* You needn't come any farther unless you like.'
* Thank you,' said Aylmer ; ' I prefer to see you
' Do you think I need watching ?' demanded the
girl, with sudden violence. ' Are you going to tell
my aunt to lock me in ?'
He walked beside her quietly. They came to
the cross-roads, and then to the bam, and then
to the duck-pond, which was always half dry at
midsimuner. A cow in a shed lowed as they passed,
and a familiar farmyard smell greeted Rosabel's
nostrils. It was very quiet ; their footsteps were
almost noiseless on the dust of a long drought.
The glow from the bar window was visible quite
a long way off, like a great red eye which grew
bigger and bigger every moment. A door swung
open, and the smell of beer came out. Rosabel's
heart gave a little throb for some unknown reason,
and she stopped by the b^ach where Braithwaite
had tried to kiss her on the birthday which seemed
so long ago.
* Are you coming in ?* she asked.
'No. I must catch the last train back to
There was a pause of twenty seconds. She stood
with her back to the light, but his face was thrown
into relief against the black background of the
The girl's tongue was loosened at last.
* Forgive me — oh, forgive me I'
* Do you really care whether I do or not ?'
' If I had known,' she said huskily, ' I would have
been so different.'
* What does that mean ?'
* I've loved you for ever so long, and now you
are angry, and you won't forgive me, and I shall
die of shame !'
Aylmer's breathing quickened. He did not
answer for a moment.
* It's a thing no man would forgive,' he said.
' The mere ideas you have had have tainted
you. And I don't even know how far you have
gone with Braithwaite '
Rosabel's head drooped; she plucked at her
' He has kissed me,' she said^ in a guilty whiter,
* five times. I didn't like it, and now — how I hate
to think of it now I' 4
' Is that aU, Rosabel ?'
' I am sure it wasn't more than five times,' she
The light caught her face, and he looked hard
* You are truthful,* he admitted. * Whatever you
are not which you ought to be, I will swear you are
truthful I So I will believe that he has only — ^kissed
you five times. That is bad enough.'
' I know. I am not defending m3rself . Only —
why didn't you tell me ?'
* You never gave me a civil word after he ap-
peared. Under such circumstances, it isn't easy to
tell a girl you love her I'
* I thought you were going to marry my mother,
* Yes, we have both made mistakes,' he said —
* such mistakes as one pays for all one's life.'
' All one's life ?' repeated the girl drearily. * And
— I am only nineteen.'
There was another silence. The sound of the
river rushing over the weir reached them faintly,
again the wakeful cow lowed in the shed across
the fields, and Mrs. Collins' robust voice, raised in
admonition, penetrated the outer stillness of the
* 'Ow much longer are you goin' to be with them
sandwiches, Jane ? The gentleman wants to catch
For the second time that evening a tension
snapped. Without a sound she threw her arms
round his neck.
He responded instantly, passionately, clasping
her close, and kissing her on the lips.
*We are both upset to-night. I shall see you
The folly of washing one's dirty linen in public was
not one of Amy Fairboume*s. She considered it
indecent, and, what was perhaps worse, a bore. At
least, the unpleasant operation might be postponed.
So she told her hostess that Rosabel had gone home in
a fit of ill-temper, apologized for her daughter's shock-
ing behaviour, and burned the note in her bedroom
grate. Aylmer's disappearance she was not called
upon to explain, but she knew perfectly well that he
had guessed, God knows why, and foUowed. What
was it to do with him ? And as a rule he was the
last man in the world to interfere with other people's
business. Regardless of appearances, he, who ought
to have been petrified by disgust, had rushed to the
rescue. And if his officiousness succeeded, he
would expect gratitude.
BrilUant in the light of many wax candles —
candles were a fad at The Hermitage — ^Amy Fair-
bourne laughed loudly at a particularly stupid joke.
Yes, he would expect gratitude. What an absurd
world it was ! But he might not succeed.
There were moments when she saw black spots
instead of white walls and water-colours, and the
carpet rose mider her feet like an ocean wave ; and
she had had only two glasses of champagne for
dinner besides the wing of a chicken and an ice in a
paper frill. She would have given five hundred
pounds to go to bed at nine o'clock, but dare not say
her head ached ; four pairs of eyes were on the watch,
and she could almost hear the conjectures which
would follow her retreat.
Nevertheless, when a telegram on a salver was
brought to her, she took it calmly.
' Rosabel safe. Sta5dng with Collinses to-night.
Can I see you in the morning ? Please answer to
my address. — Aylmer.'
She crumpled the message in her hand. ^
' It is only from Rosabel,' she said.
In all her Ufe she had never passed such an
insufferable evening. She was sick with suspense
and dread. What was Aylmer's attitude towards
Rosabel ? He must be disgusted. Even caring
enough to bring her back, he must be disgusted.
No man could take it calmly. Surely he would
hate her for evermore ?
Still, she could not banish a host of misgivings,
and the sickness of suspense endured. Perhaps he
was going to bully her ior not taking better care of
her daughter, and wash his hands of the pair of them.
Even that, she felt, would be better than the other
thing — ^that * other thing ' which she scarcely dared
to name even to her own soul. In the morning she
was allowed to go. It was like emerging frcHn
prison — ^the relief of being free at last to look as ugly
as she liked.
Directly she was alone the animation left her
eyes, her mouth drooped at the comers ; it
was as though another woman had stepped into
her clothes — ^a woman who was tired, careworn,
The lowered blinds and general stagnation of
London in August did not tend to raise her spirits.
The district of Hyde Park was especially depressing.
A whole street she passed through bore scarcely a
sign of life. A footman in his shirt-sleeves was
sunning himself on the doorsteps of a certain mansion
where she had enjoyed many a good dinner ; an
elderly caretaker was gossiping at an area gate with
the milkman ; a domestic tabby stealing across the
road might have been a wild relation prowling among
the deserted, sun-baked streets of a ruined city of
the East. Not a carriage was in sight ; not a whed
or a hoof broke the stillness. Great Cumberland
Place was sleeping, shuttered and silent, as
though it had never heard the sound of human
Her dining-room blinds were up in readiness for
her arrival, however, and a slatternly female, the
coachman's sister, opened the door. She sent a
reply to Ayhner*s tel^^ram :
* Will see you at Great Cumberland Place at one
Then she waited for hours, for a lifethne.
When he arrived, on the stroke of one, she was
still in her hat, like a visitor, and the well-known
perfume of violets greeted him with her gloved
^Excuse this mausoleum,' she said. *The ser-
vants have gone to Norfolk. I am only stopping to
see you on the way. What. of Rosabel ?'
* You had her note ?'
' My telegram reached you last night, of
* It was thoughtful of you to relieve my anxiety I'
She was extremely bitter. * Where did you find her
— ^with Maurice Braithwaite ?'
* I am forced to admit that I did.'
*She has behaved abominably, and you — ^like
yourself. I guessed at once that you had followed
her. What made you suspect ?'
* Sundry reflections inspired by her absence from
the garden-party. I was fortunate enough to catch
the next train.'
* What did she say ?'
* A great deal. She is not as bad as you think,'
he said. * Only she has deeper feelings than most
girls — and she is braver.*
* Braver I* repeated Mrs. Fairboume. * A de-
praved woman would have had more — ^more hesita-
tion. I have another word for her conduct.'
' Then, don't say it, please I You don't under-
His tone exasperated her. She saw already that
he was far from being alienated from Rosabel, and
the fact was not likely to propitiate her in her
' I understand very well,' she said.
' I think not ; I didn't. She does not care for
Braithwaite. She went to him merely to create a
Mrs. Fairboume, taken aback, stared at him.
' Is she mad ? What do you mean ?'
' I give you her own explanation. She planned
this flight with Braithwaite wholly and solely to
create a scandal which should call attenticm to her
bringing-up — ^to the wrong which she considers you
have done to her.'
She was rather white, but she laughed*
' Oh, that is it, is it ? How amiable of her !
Only I dcm't believe a word of it I She was caught,
so she had to say something.'
* I disagree with you entirely, Mrs. Fairboume,*
he said decidedly.
* A girl who would do a thing like that *
' I don't excuse her, only — ^none of us are perfect,*
he said. ' I am quite willing to marry her.*
' You will marry her ?*
' I hope so, with all my heart. She knows that I
am going to ask her.'
The blow had fallen at last. She realized now
that she had been expecting it — ^how long ? Antici-
pation of it had hung like a black cloud over her Ufe,
despite all her efforts to dispel it.
She took it very well. He was not feeling kindly
disposed towards her, yet he could not help admiring
the way she rallied after the first gasp, and stood her
ground, hiding her wound, den5dng it in the very
face of the man who had dealt it. She had pluck.
He was glad. It would have been horrible if she
had lost her head and wept, and said things which
would have made intercourse between them as
mother-in-law and son-in-law impossible.
' This,' she said faintly, * is rather a surprise.*
' I hoped you knew,' he answered.
' Of course ' — she drew a deep breath — ' I am
gratified and relieved.'
' Thank you.'
' You are treating her splendidly, the little cat — ^far
better than she deserves. I trust she realizes it.
Anyhow — I am obUged to you.' Her voice grew
fuller, more natural, every moment. 'You have
always been a good friend to me. Alec ! And you
could not show your friendship more practically
than by taking this troublesome girl off my hands.
She needs a man to look after her, and no man could
do it better, I am sure, than you.'
* It is very kind of you to say so. Amy,' he replied,
touched by her generosity. * I think I can make
her happy, and I hope I shall make you better
friends with each other than you have been.'
*0h, I am not going to welcome her like a
returned prodigal!' she replied. *You needn't
expect that !'
* You must forgive her. She is only nineteen.'
* She is old enough to behave with the vicious
determination of a woman of forty. She can
come back to me, but I shall say what I like.
If you are nervous, she had better stay with the
* That is unnecessary ; my sister would take her.
But — she ought to return. Can't you let it drop ?
After all,' he said, * if / am satisfied '
'I am not as complaisant,* she said< 'as
It was the one thrust she had given him, and he
let it pass.
* I will tell her,' he said slowly. * She shall please
' It is all the same to me.' Mrs. Fairboume
shrugged her shoulders. \She has done her best, even
according to your lenient explanation of her conduct,
to injure me. There is a home for her with me until
she marries, but my heart will not break if she does
not choose to come.*
' Still, I shall persuade her to rejoin you,' he said.
' I can understand that you are a little bitter, but the
feeUng will pass, I hope.'
Her lips twitched for an instant, and straightened
with visible effort as he took her hand.
' Good-bye,' she said.
The farewell, as she uttered it, was very signifi-
She went to the window, behind the curtain, to
watch him down the street. Then she turned, and
opened the bottle of smelling-salts attached to her
golden chatelaine, and held it to her nostrils with the
face of death.
As for Aylmer, he turned his back on the little
house in Great Cumberland Place and its mistress
with a sigh of relief. She had behaved badly, and
long ago he had reached the stage of wondering how
he could ever have liked her ; but she was a woman,
and she loved him^ and he had had to tell her
that he wanted her daughter — a most impleasant
task. Perhaps he had got off better than he
He returned thanks in the proper quarter that it
was over and he might relax. The rest of the day
should be more agreeable. He lunched comfort-
ably at Prince's, and went down to the Angler's
Digitized by VjOOQIC
Rosabel must have been watching the trains, for
she met him fifty yards up the road, with her cheeks
in a glow.
* I thought perhaps you wouldn't come, after all/
' I always keep my promises.*
The girl looked shy, and could not meet his eyes ;
to-day was not last night, and the sun was shining.
He took her arm.
* I have seen your mother,* he added. ' She is not
pleased ; one can hardly expect it. I thought it
best to be quite candid. But she is willing that you
should join her in Norfolk.*
* I don't care how angry she is, and I don't want
to go to Norfolk.*
* Rosabel I Rosabel!*
* Why should I care ?' she demanded.
* Because I would rather you were friends than
not. In this instance you were wrong, and it is your
place to make the first advance.*
* She would only smile in that nasty way she has
with me, and say, " Never mind, Rosabel." *
' I don*t ask a great deal of you — I don't ask you
to love her ; but I should prefer you not to adver-
tise your — our private affairs. Will you obUge me ?
You owe me something.*
*0f course, if you put it like that,* murmured
' It need only be for a little whUe,* he said. ' I —
you know I am waiting for you, Rosabel ?'
Her lips worked.
* Then, it is true I I was awake all night,' she
admitted under her breath. * I could not believe it
was really true I'
Aylmer took Rosabel to London the next morning,
and bought her an engagement-ring, and saw her off
at Liverpool Street for Norfolk.
Her mother did not come to meet her at the other
end, and the girl had a lonely drive of half an hour
before the house was reached.
It was a pretty place, near the Broads, and when
Rosabel drove up' several guests, who had arrived
earlier in the day, were occup5dng the veranda, and
making a great deal of noise.
Mrs. Fairboume did not rise as Rosabel stood
hesitating ; she merely raised her voice.
* Ah, Rosabel,' she said, * so you've come ! Brace
knows which is your room. If you want tea, order
The girl was neither defiant nor sullen, she was
coldly polite. She had expected to find her mother
alone, and the visitors were a welcome buffer.
Perhaps nothing would be said, after all. In any
case, she was not to be impertinent ; Aylmer had
made her promise that at parting.
Digitized by VjOOQIC
When she came down again, with her gloves off,
Mrs. Fairboume's hps twitched, and for a moment a
stony silence held her ; but it was necessary to say
something — the flashing ring had drawn the other
* Rosabel has just become engaged,' she said, ' to
someone you all know well — ^Alec Aylmer.'
A sort of electric thrill went round. Rash people
exchanged furtive glances ; cautious ones looked at
their shoes. A carefully modulated voice broke the
pause, which could not be allowed to endure.
' Alec Aylmer ! Really ?'
* Yes,' said Mrs. Fairboume. ' And I always
thought him a confirmed bachelor ! But he is a
dear fellow. I could have wished nothing nicer for
She was a wonder ; they all said so afterwards.
Meanwhile, everybody began to congratulate Rosabel,
who bore herself with considerable composure. She
was no longer awkward, because she had lost that
sense of inferiority which had always been so bitter
to her. Alec Aylmer — the best of them all — had
chosen her for his wife. To consider herself not as
good as these people would be an insult to him.
Mrs. Fairboume was the first to observe the subtle
change which had come over the girl, and to realize
what it meant. She herself did not utter a word of
congratulation to her daughter, avoided addressing
her, did not mention Aylmer's name again.
Perhaps this was the course of conduct she had
laid down for herself — ^to refuse to perceive Rosabel's
self-satisfaction, to ignore that anything of impor-
tance had occurred. If so, she could not stick to it.
She wanted to hear ; a morbid craving to torture
herself drove her to the girPs room after they had
The knock at the door in the silence — it reminded
Rosabel of that other night. She had posed so
mightily in her thoughts, and played such a small
part in reality. It was not her own good sense
which had saved her from ruining her life and the
life of the man who loved her, and for a moment the
familiar feeling of humiliation in her mother's
presence returned, and she saw herself a pigmy in
character beside the woman who was strong enough
to treat her with contempt.
Her cheeks turned red, and her eyes glowed once
more with the old sullen fire.
Mrs. Fairboume, on the contrary, was pale, and
swept her daughter with a scornful glance.
* So you have come back,' she said again. ' I
scarcely expected it. You have courage, upon my
word, after your behaviour !'
' Mr. Aylmer wished me to come.'
*Mr. Aylmer!' The woman gave a laugh of
derision. ' Is that what you call him when you are
* No,' replied Rosabel shortly.
* Mr. Aylmer ! I dare say you are rather awed by
your magnificence, aren't you, Rosabel ? Actually
a gentleman wants you ! If I had left you with the
Collinses, you would have married a shop-boy — or a
groom Uke your father.'
* I shouldn't,' said Rosabel.
' It would have been more suitable. Alec will
realize his mistake some day. He is not a man to be
contented long with an inferior. He has taken a
fancy to your looks, and that sort of thing never
lasts — ^least of all will it last with him.'
' You are trying to make me unhappy,' said
Rosabel ; ' but you can't ! I know he loves me.'
' Oh, you do ! You are so experienced, of course.
But I am even more experienced, and I have known
Alec Aylmer longer than you have. Let me tell you
that he is just a little fickle.'
* I don't beUeve it,' said the girl.
' He was in love with me.'
' I don't beUeve it,' repeated Rosabel obstinately.
* He told me he had liked you, but that he had
never lovid anybody as he loves me.'
' You have discussed me ?'
' I had to ask,' murmured Rosabel. ' I used to
think — I mean, I thought after what you told me
Mrs. Fairboume's eyes flamed suddenly, and her
self-control left her in a great gust of passion.
* You stole him from me !' she cried. * He was
mine before he was yours. You wanted to be re-
venged, didn't you ? I was to be shocked, heart-
broken, panic-stricken by your escapade ; I was to
be driven out of England, perhaps, by the reflection
of my daughter's dishonour ! I see myself in the
r61e you cast me for ! Go, my dear ; pursue your
" revenge," and I will get the sackcloth and ashes
There was more. It was vulgar, it was pitiful, it
was horrible. And at the end she swept out of the
room like a whirlwind ; but before she reached the
door she added in a little sobbing undertone, ' Oh,
my God !' and something clutched Rosabel by the
' Mother !' cried the girl, and started forward.
Mrs. Fairboume did not stop. Through the
corridor she fled like a wild thing, and shut the door
upon her broken life. And Rosabel, after a moment,
followed, and hanunered at the door.
' Mother, mother, let me in !'
But there was no response, and she crept back to
her own room bafiBed, and cast herself upon the bed
So Rosabel had her revenge after all — ^and hated it.
In the morning there were two white faces at
the breakfast-table. But whereas Rosabel, being
nervous and upset and distrait, could not speak,
Mrs. Fairboume talked as easily as though she had
never suffered from an inconvenient passion in her
Afterwards the woman drew the girl apart.
* Come outside, Rosabel ; I want to speak to you.'
The window stood open to the garden, and Rosabel
followed silently. When they were beyond earshot
of the house, Mrs. Fairboume began in a voice care-
fully modulated and composed :
* Last night I made a fool of m5^self . It is not
often that I suffer from an attack of nerves. ... I
scarcely remember what I said — b, great deal of
nonsense, I am afraid.' She paused, and her eyes
met Rosabel's. * You understand ?'
' Yes, mother.'
* We were both excited. Why did you run after
me, and knock at the door? You made enough
noise to alarm the house.'
Rosabel hung her head, and coloured.
* And there was nothing the matter,' pursued Mrs.
Fairboume calmly — ' nothmg at all. I was merely
h}^terical after a tiring day. So you need not repeat
an)rthing to Mr. Aylmer.'
' I shan't mention it,' said Rosabel, looking up.
*Then — ^we can both forget it immediately.
When are you going to be married ?'
* Alec thought at the end of the month — ^if you are
willing ?' replied the girl, almost timidly.
* It has nothing to do with me,' said Mrs. Fair-
boume, with an air of great impartiaUty ; ' pray
study yourselves alone. Do you wish to have him
down here to stay, or do you want to go back to
London and see about your trousseau ?'
* I think I ought to be seeing about my trousseau.'
* Very well. We will return to Great Cumberland
Place next week, when these people are gone.'
* You are very kind,' said Rosabel huskily.
* Oh, don't trouble to thank me, pray !'
Mrs. Fairboume turned back to the house.
* Mother !' panted Rosabel.
* What is the matter ?'
' I'm sorry. I was sorry last, night — for the first
Mrs. Fairboume paused. But her face was coldly
amused, no more, at the girl's distress.
* Were you ? Why ? Don't be sentimental,
please ; it doesn't suit you, and it doesn't suit me.'
Rosabel hid herself among the gooseberry bushes
and apple-trees m the kitchen garden.
' She hates me,' she thought bitterly, * and she'll
never forgive me as long as she lives. She meant
everything she said last night, only she is ashamed.
Why should I be sorry for her ? I'm not I Oh,
Once more Rosabel wept over her revenge. But
she kept her word, and did not repeat the story of
that interview to Aylmer when they met again. She
only clung to him with a yearning for tenderness
which told him as much as he cared to know.
^•TOU, JUiKOX AN
^%i- \ irHl
BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINmiS, GUILOrOKO